Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
AFI Latin American ’16: Clever
Clever lived in the American Southeast rather than South America, he would
probably be called white trash. The socially awkward martial arts instructor
has a fondness for Bruce Lee, video games, booze, drugs, and custom flaming
paint jobs on muscle cars. His 1976 Chevette Shark doesn’t really qualify, but
he still intends to get it pimped out accordingly in co-director-screenwriters
Federico Borgia & Guillermo Madeiro’s Clever
which screens during this year’s AFI Latin American Film Festival.
does not have much going on. His ex-wife Jacqueline has moved onto to a more
responsible Fiat driver after divorcing him, but he still wallows in denial. His
husky son Bruce (named after you know who) has not taken after the old man,
despite all the time he has spent in his father’s dojo. Hoping to bond with his
son and maybe finally taste a bit of glory, Clever intends to get his Chevy
decked out for the upcoming car show. However, the mysterious artist whose work
he covets has relocated to a provincial burg.
chasing down several false leads, Clever finally tracks down Sebastian, a Momma’s
Boy bodybuilder who might just be the Rembrandt of muscle cars. He has an
artistic temperament but his ambiguous sexuality makes Clever uneasy, but nowhere
near as uncomfortable as the manipulative mother’s come-ons.
its garish title design, Clever tips
its hat towards exploitation films, but then delivers a critical meditation on
masculinity that is clearly skeptical regarding its merits. It is a quiet film,
but it still metes out quite a bit of humiliation. Tonally, Borgia &
Guillermo try to be half-pregnant, splitting the difference between quirky and
contemptuous. It is a fraught line they walk.
they could hardly ask any more of their lead, Hugo Piccinini, who has the
perfect muscular nebbishness for the alienated martial arts sensei. Frankly, it
is compelling to watch him try a navigate his way through a world too complex
for his fists, but in a decidedly sad sort of way.
Despite the strange sensitivity of Piccinini’s
performance, Clever is a rather
unsatisfying meal. Borgia & Guillermo are too content to coast on their
presumed eccentricity, leaving the film mired in its wet noodle pacing. It is
hardly an affront to anyone or anything, but there are better films to invest
your time in. Just a mediocrity, Clever screens
tomorrow (9/25) and next Thursday (9/29) as part of AFI’s annual Latin American
Film Festival, just off the Beltway in Montgomery County.
Labels: AFI Latin American '16, Uruguayan Cinema