Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
TIFF ’15: Magallanes
Judd Hirsch’s Alex Rieger had been a member of a military death squad, he
would be the spitting image of Harvey Magallanes. Rumpled and sad-eyed,
Magallanes is haunted by ghosts from his past. When one of them unknowingly
steps into his cab, he hatches a scheme to rectify an old wrong. From that
point on, nothing goes right in Salvador del Solar’s Magallanes (trailer
screens during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
his remorse, everything Magallanes does reminds him of his tour in Ayacucho. He
shares a cab with his old gung-ho comrade Milton and serves as the volunteer
driver of their former Colonel, whose memory has been lost to the ravages of
senility—heavy-handed metaphor alert. Then one day, Celina hails his cab. While
still a pre-teen, the Colonel abducted her during a raid held her as his personal
concubine for months. Clearly, she made quite an impression on Magallanes, but
she does not recognize the now bearded and graying former commando.
her desperate need for money, Magallanes hatches a dubious scheme to blackmail
the Colonel’s prominent son with an incriminating photo of his father. Of
course, the entitled Augusto is not about to take a shakedown lying down. Yet,
it is Magallanes, his father’s trusted driver, whom he entrusts to coordinate
the entrapping pay-off with the police.
Magallanes has the makings of
a crackerjack noir, but del Solar is too preoccupied with old score-settling to
maintain the tension of the first extended cat-and-mouse sequence. There are
just too many scenes of Magallanes stewing like Raskolnikov in his garret. The
film’s version of the truth is also highly selective. Even though the Peruvian
Truth and Reconciliation Commission was clearly biased against Alberto Fujimori
(or “Chinochet” as his critics racistly referred to him), it admitted far more atrocities
were committed by the Maoist Shining Path and MRTA terrorists. Needless to say,
you wouldn’t know that from del Solar’s screenplay.
Still, Damian Alcazar broods like a champion as
the titular cabbie and Magaly Solier has a truly haunting screen presence. The
decision to not subtitle Celina’s big climatic speech in her indigenous Quechua
is also oddly effective. There are inspired bits distributed here and there
throughout Magallanes, but the whole
is just too clunky and blinkered in its perspective. Frankly, del Solar was
better represented last year at TIFF with his work as the lead actor in Javier
Fuentes-León’s The Vanished Elephant.
A disappointment overall, Magallanes screens
again today (9/17) and tomorrow (9/18) at this year’s TIFF.
Labels: Peruvian Cinema, TIFF '15