"NERUDA" THE SPIRITED REVOLUTIONARY NEVER SLEEPSGael Garcia Bernal (foreground) and Luis Gnecco in "Neruda."
of thoughtful cinema have always been relatively few in number. But
now with the ever-expanding panoply of digital action adventures
being released every hour on the hour, these caring cineasts who long
for movies depicting human emotions are being driven like refugees
toward a shrinking handful of films.
Significant among them is
“Neruda” from Chile, directed by Pablo Larrain (“Jackie)” and
written by Guillermo Calderón, Larraín's screenwriter from “The
Gnecco has the title role. He plays the young Neruda, already on the
run in 1948, a doughy South American poet from Chile who dares stand
up for communist values in the era of dictators doing their best
imitation of Europe's autocrats from the 1930s.
star power comes from Gael Garcia Bernal as the police officer Oscar
Peluchonneau , equally as determined as Inspector Javert of “Les
Miserables” to bring in his man. But Neruda is as much a clever
politician as he is a poet, sensing the value in being perpetually
pursued by the police.
is even more importance in not being caught, for that would be the
end of everything. No more chase, no daily newspaper story wondering
where Neruda is each day.
is a bit of eye-winking humor in Garcia's performance, playing the
bad guy just so we can be reminded of Neruda's magical ability to
hold the attention of any audience regardless of his situation.
worry if you are reminded from time to time of Inspector Clusseau in
hot pursuit of the Pink Panther. The director is certainly taking his
artistic sensibilities seriously, but the set-up is such a classic,
Bernal can't resist pointing that out occasionally.
love the charming and rascally anti-hero chased by an idealistic
figure of law enforcement who is too square for his own good. There
is classic precedent at work here, but also a genuine effort to make
art -- particularly poetry – more appealing to a larger audience of
is only later, hours after you left the theater, that you realize the
movie contained no explosions, no shoot-outs, no high-speed car
chases or helicopter suicide missions. Nothing but good ol' solid
acting and a crisp hand in the editing bay.
plot is set in three chapters. The first sets up post-war Chile, with
Europe's political survivors seeking safe haven in various parts of
South America. Neruda the poet of the people best known for his
romantic side, is pushed into the communist camp, happy to protest
against any autocrat.
second chapter is the actual chase, as defiant Neruda enjoys pinching
the noses of Chile's ruling class. Equally as idealistic on the side
of the law is Oscar Peluchonneau , a comic name for a very serious
Three is the final pursuit, as Pluchonneau goes into Marlon Brando's
Kurtz territory overwhelmed by his own delusions, but in an
exceptionally artistic way set against the deep snows of
mountainscapes in the Andes.
“Neruda” isn't actually about Pablo Neruda in any biographic way,
it is revealing of the poet's obsessions with poetry, with women,
with life, and with the obligations he feels to his countrymen.