Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Movie with Abe: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles
Directed by Salvador Simó
Released August 16, 2019

Some directors leave an indelible mark on their work that can be easily recognized by all who watch it. That’s especially true of filmmakers whose projects were influential in the early years of cinema, seen by many and disliked by a good number of them. In certain cases, filmmakers try to play to their critics by creating works later in their careers that might seem more normative or allow them to transcend to the mainstream, but there are those determined to leave an imprint on everything they do, unwilling to compromise any creative energy to appease an ungrateful audience.

In 1932, director Luis Buñuel (Jorge Usón) is experiencing backlash from his most recent film, “L’Age D’Or,” and is intrigued by a suggestion to make a documentary about Las Hurdes in Spain. His friend Ramon Acin (Fernando Ramos) buys a lottery ticket and professes that, if he wins, he’ll fund the film, and when he does, they find a crew and travel to Spain. Once they arrive, Buñuel’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic as he tries to stage scenes that he believes best represent life in the region and wakes his collaborators up in the middle of the night to start each day with another boundary-pushing adventure, all while confronting his own internal demons from his past.

The use of animation to bring to life the process of making a film is a wondrously creative and rewarding approach. Though this reviewer might not have immediately recognized Buñuel by name, references to his first film, “Un Chien Andalou,” immediately evoke memories of watching an eyeball being sliced by a razor in early film history classes in college. Buñuel’s eccentricity was boundless, and this film seeks to represent that by showing his commitment to his craft and how it was influenced by his own difficulty coping with his childhood and other loss in his life, both in a straightforward manner and through vivid nightmares that feel impossibly real.

This film is at best a dark horse contender for an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, a film that isn’t really meant for children but instead tackles more adult themes in its portrayal of film history on screen. GKIDS is a fitting distributor for a project that feels truly insightful and tackles a controversial figure who was undeniably brilliant if not too interested in cozying up to its critics. This film is a formidable tribute, one that makes great use of its animated format to bring its protagonist and his imagination to life.


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