5 Days of Platino #1 – Aquarius (2016)

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Welcome to the third edition of the 5 Days of Platino. What is this? Well, the Platino Awards are the Oscars of Hispanic American films, with movies from Spain, Portugal and Latin America being considered for the awards of Best Film, Best Director, and practically every other category that already exists in the Oscars, more or less. So, in this blog of mine, I follow the tradition of reviewing the films that are nominated for Best Film in the Oscars (an event called 10 Days of Oscar, which I sadly couldn’t do this year), but since there are only 5 nominated films for Best Film, it becomes easier and so here are the 5 Days of Platino. The films nominated for best picture this year are ‘Aquarius’ (2016), ‘El ciudadano ilustre’ (2016), ‘El Hombre de las mil caras’ (2016), ‘Julieta’ (2016) and ‘Neruda’ (2016), and we shall review them all, in lieu of the announcements of the winners of the awards in five days. I do hope you continue reading and comment on these posts and get to know about cinema from my region.

This is a capsule review that I did when ‘Aquarius’ (2016) ended up at my top 20 of 2016 list in number 4. I added a couple notes here and there, as well as did some fixes to it.

by Jaime Grijalba.

There’s something magical about a film that is over two and a half hours long and that once you start to recollect and think about what happened in it, you can’t think of much, as the film seems leisurely paced with its own story, at peace with its characters, their past and their decisions. As if nothing had happened, but at the same time everything had, a whole life lived, but at the same time so carefully composed and attentive to every detail that it fills out the air that is around it. In a way the film itself is a representation of Sonia Braga’s character, a woman with a brilliant past and a comfortable present, who is confronted with a company that wants to buy the building in which she’s living, as she is the only one still living in it. They are nasty people and they are willing to do everything to get what they want, and the film is mostly comprised of how Sonia Braga reacts to it, and it happens that they don’t discomfort her as much as they make her extremely angry, but not at a level that will stop her from being in control of the situation. But, at the same time, her anger is enough to answer with clarity and strength, as she slowly becomes a force to reckon with that will make everyone who watches the film absolutely speechless as it gears to its spectacularly thrilling and energy-filled ending.

What’s not to love in a film that so complexly tells a story of privilege through the lens of social justice and ‘what is right’? Mendonça-Filho plays his cards carefully, as through the performance of Braga and the editing, they make you fall in love with everything that the protagonist does, how she has always been an empowered woman, and those who come to her with harm don’t know that, as they assume she’ll fall to her knees easily like they think a woman of her age should do, and the director makes you feel that what you’re seeing is what should be happening, you see it as a progression of the events in the way that they would happen when these forces meet. The care that we feel for Braga is important and the editing and acting play a role into it, because, let’s not fool ourselves, Braga’s character is someone with privilege, a successful music writer that can afford living in a place like that, must come from a very comfortable position in society, but we still go through it because it is only through that position, speech and attitude that she is able to become a victim that won’t accept she’s a victim, and thus her privileged position becomes obscured.

We accompany her as she’s confronted with the evil people that want to throw her out of the apartment in which she’s always lived, and even though she knows she has the upper hand and never doubts that she will be triumphant, it is the extension to which the people from the new building go that sparks our own indignation, and it is through the identification in the audience of abuses similar to that, that we applaud Braga’s character as in the final scene she lays it all out, she sprays her bottled up anger and we welcome her in our leagues: this is a political film! This is amazing, give them what they deserve! It’s impressive the games that Mendonça-Filho plays here, and how he manages to dupe us, and at the same time satisfy us. The controversy of its placement in the Oscar shortlist by the Brazilian government is absolutely essential to the understanding of the film, it’s one that lays out the class that is in power right now and what they could do to an entire country… instead of just a building.

9/10

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