Ideology III

film 3 of 5

… A Valparaíso

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 9, 2015

This is a lost masterpiece. Actually, it’s more a masterpiece that hardly any one has ever heard of, at least after its initial production and utilization. How many more of these are there out there? Joris Ivens and Chris Marker, for heaven’s sake, both working at the top of their game, which means the top of anyone’s game. Erik Barnouw (the imperishable Documentary, © 1972 and in other editions, going forward) can’t mention every single great film, but it gets to the point where even the informed don’t quite know where to turn, or how to find what’s right and worthy.

You are struck at first by how photogenic this Chilean community is, and by how superbly that beauty has been cinematically shaped. You are also, equally, struck by the beauty and aptness and sharpness of the accompanying commentary. Predictably, the elements are not working together in the service of mere picturesqueness; this is actually one of the great film dissertations on the gaps between appearance and reality, on the ironic reality of material deprivation in the midst of great beauty. It’s quite reminiscent of Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog, actually, in its extraordinarily evocative imagery, in its extraordinarily interrogative commentary, in its very effectively unsettling (Hanns) Eislerian score. I wouldn’t say this one is better, but I would point out that it benefits from its consideration of a problem that is considerably less terrible, and considerably more common, and maybe, as a result, considerably more pressing.

The manner of that consideration makes this an exemplary piece of political cinema: clear about causes and effects and even possible remedies, keying on issues and collectivities but never losing sight of the individual’s life. The change to colour! Beautiful, and terrible, and still even hopeful. Really, really tremendous.