(Lisandro Alonso, Argentina, 2013)
Beautiful, but somewhat limited its detached formalism. It's Alonso's least structuralist work, and what he discards from his rigidly observational method he makes up for with an increasingly poetic approach. Rather than an immersive, "you are here in this world, in real time," he orchestrates a kind of expanse-in-minature: the arid wastes of southern Argentina are painterly and limpid. The action, which includes both sex and violence, is likewise held at a distance, balanced in the frame, as if it were happening on stage. Artifice is heightened, and the symbolic weight of the story is foregrounded, while the mood is kept tightly in check. As far as durational cinema goes, Lisandro is carving out a secure niche for himself. He isn't a maestro of dreamlike atmosphere, like Apatchitpong, or a poet of urban alienation, like Tsai; he has none of the political-diaristic fury of the great (dearly departed) Ackermann. He somehow manages to be both reserved and restless. The ending sequence, which launches the film into a new realm, literally and metaphorically, is a brilliant and thrilling gambit; I'm not sure it worked. But I'm happy he went there.