Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Wisely Passed Over by the Academy: Neruda
Paz never ceased to admire Pablo Neruda as a poet, but he was profoundly
disappointed in the Chilean’s unyielding adherence to Stalinism. No doubt, the
Mexican Nobel Laureate would also be greatly troubled by Pablo Larraín
ostensibly cinematic portrait and its eagerness to gloss the historical record.
To its credit, the Academy’s foreign language division declined shortlist Chile’s
official submission, Larraín’s bizarrely over-hyped Neruda, which opens today in New York.
the late 1930s, the world generally understood the nature of the Moscow Show
Trials, except for those who willfully maintained their ignorance. In 1946,
Neruda still clung to his blinkered world view, which provided radical leftist
President Gonzalez Videla a handy excuse when he turned on Neruda and the
Communist Party, as part of power struggle to control the Chilean leftwing.
Neruda, a sitting senator at the time, was exiled, becoming the toast of
Soviet-aligned and fellow-traveling political circles.
Larraín’s Borgesean distortion, before Neruda could reach the adoring
receptions abroad, he spent months underground, eluding the Javert-like police prefect
Oscar Peluchonneau, his nemesis and possible post-modern alter-ego. Frankly, Larraín’s
film is not even competent hagiography, depicting Neruda as a nauseatingly
self-indulgent hedonist, who spends more time in brothels than the average Game of Thrones character. Where is the late, great Philippe Noiret when we need him?
Neruda has been described
as a film noir take on Neruda and his legend. That is apt enough if they mean
the noir Terrence Malick had the decency to never make. If you enjoy
overwrought, risibly puffed-up voiceovers than Neruda will be like having Christmas and the Super Bowl on the same
the rest of us, Neruda is just
embarrassingly self-important, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous,
self-absorbed, and utterly un-self-aware. This is the sort of klutzy pretention
critics would ordinarily snark off the screen, but in this case, it is
protected by its extreme leftist ideology.
is not competent enough in fundamental cinematic terms for its didacticism
to become problematic. Wildly over-the-top in its ostentatious excesses, Neruda’s purple narration makes it a
better fit for the MST3K reboot than
the Oscars. Indeed, some of the ever so solemn passages cry out for Crow and
Tom Servo to bring them crashing down to earth. Horribly over-praised, Neruda should be flatly dismissed when
it opens today (12/16) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Chilean Cinema