Monday, September 27, 2010

Días de Santiago - English Language Review

Días de Santiago
(Peru, 2004)

Directed by: Josué Méndez
Starring: Pietro Sibille, Milagros Vidal, Marisela Puicon, Lili Urbina

Rating: 3/5

The winner of the 2004 Transilvania Internation Film Festival is a gritty Peruvian movie that reminds us of Scorsese's "Taxi Driver". Santiago is a 23-year old war veteran that has trouble finding a job and finding a meaning in his life after his service has ended. His relationships with his wife and his family are bad. He's mostly worried about his brother beating up his wife all day. He spends some time discussing possible plans for the future with his friends, also war veterans, but in the end he takes up driving a taxi to pay for school and hopefully get a diploma. He befriends four girls in his class and grows attached to one of them in particular. His insanity grows to almost to paroxism and in the end - not unlike Travis Bickle - he tries to rescue the girl, at first and then his sister-in-law from their miserable life, but his attempt - unlike Travis' - failes and heloses all hope of redemption.

Although smart and well-directed, with real insight into how people (or, in this case, borderline sociopaths) deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and the hassles of everyday life, the movie has a bad habit of switching from color to black-and-white. While I don't mind it really, it seems to be absolutely random, distracting and doesn't agree with the director's realistic approach to the story. The movie looks well in color and amazing in B/W, but a few scenes using blue filters and dream sequences are badly put together. I wish the movie would have found some kind of balance strictly at this level.

For the rest of it, it's quite competently acted, it works well even without a great script and it's pretty short, so it doesn't have time to go off the rails too much. The star of the picture, Pietro Sibille, gives an uneven performance, but is, overall, a good companion in our journey through the reality of modern Peru. His Santiago is a deeply trouble man, that gradually, during the course of a few days, loses all hope and sense of belonging in this world, to the level that he doesn't even know how to quit it.

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