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Thread: GLUE: Adolescent Story in the Middle of Nowhere (Argentina)

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    GLUE: Adolescent Story in the Middle of Nowhere (Argentina)

    GLUE (Argentina)

    It's a tough task to make a fresh and original film about adolescence. There have been so many great movies that depict those wonderful/horrible years when humans change so rapidly and feel so intensely. A large number of them can be categorized as "coming-of-age" stories in that a major character faces a challenging event or experience that serves as a rite of passage to a higher level of awareness and maturity. For most of us, our teenage experience is not so clearly delineated. Real life usually doesn't yield dramatic narratives; it usually lacks a tragic or suspenseful element. The protagonists of Alexis dos Santos' debut feature are "average teenagers" only in the sense that nothing spectacular happens to them, but they are highly individuated. The film is also quite specific about the small town in Patagonia where they live, the same place where the director's family moved when he was eight years old.

    Lucas is a gangly, bug-eyed 15 year-old with an expressive face and hair like the young Bob Dylan. That was her mother in the opening scene angrily confronting and fighting with her husband's alleged lover. Turns out they have been separated due to his infidelities but want to try to reconcile. It's a typical hot and dry summer. Lucas spends most of his time with peers, particularly his best friend Nacho and new acquaintance Andrea. Any attempt at providing a synopsis is bound to be as reductive as the title (which Santos qualifies by adding "Adolescent Story in the Middle of Nowhere"): the kids swim at the public pool, play in a rock band (Lucas writes lyrics and sings, badly, and he knows it), engage in prankish games and idle talk, and just plain hang out. The daring, awkwardness, vulnerability and self-consciousness of adolescence permeate every moment. Dad comes to dinner one night. Lucas decides to steal the key to Dad's apartment and party there with Nacho and Andrea. She can't come so the boys find some glue, get high and get each other off. Another day, the three of them go to a dance club, have a beer or two, then end up kissing and touching each other. The film is fluid and ethereal, both in content and form. Santos cast three kids who knew each other at an improv class, took them to the town of Zapala in Patagonia, let them wander around and suggest locations, provided them with basic scenarios and allowed them to create dialogue within certain parameters. He shot most of the film in HD video with gorgeously saturated colors, and added some impressionistic inner monologues shot in super 8 (reminiscent of those in Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation).Towards the conclusion, Lucas, his older sister, and parents, seemingly closer to reconciliation, go camping. They have trouble setting up the tent so that it doesn't collapse on them. A subtle metaphor for the difficulties of keeping a family together.

    Glue takes a non-judgemental stance and regards the kids with deep empathy. It's a simultaneously realistic and lyrical snapshot of adolescence. Perhaps it's not a film that will be universally admired because it lacks the compelling narrative, the dramatic twists and turns, that certain audiences expect from a movie. Few will deny that teenagers have seldom been depicted with such warmth and unflinching honesty though. Glue has been a success in the festival circuit. It was recently selected to open the renowned New Directors/New Films series in New York. Picture This! Entertainment has recently acquired the North American rights to the film. It's unclear at the moment what type of distribution the film will receive.

    (Review written originally as part of coverage of the 2007 Miami International Film Festival. The film was released without fanfare on DVD last November despite excellent reviews wherever it has screened and numerous festival prizes. It's available for rental at Netflix.

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    Picture This! Entertainment distribution suggests a youth, coming of age, sex, and often a gay bias, with some leaning toward the lurid, and a straight-to-DVD tendency. Which is not to say everything with their label is bad. Two that I like are Gabriele Muccino's debut But Forever in My Mind/Io come te nessuno mai and the French made-for-TV gay coming out film, Just a Question of Love (Christian Faure).

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    I came across the title while perusing the 2006 Best lists by contributors to the magnificent site Sensesofcinema. Among those who listed it was author/professor Berenice Reynaud, whom I respect a lot. The film had a very successful run through the international festival circuit (Rotterdam, London, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Torino, etc) before having its US premiere at the AFI fest, then Miami and New Directors/New Films 2007 (opening night film). I love this film. Here's a review I like that appeared in Slate on the occasion of the NY premiere: GLUE

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    I read all the reviews.

    A preview of Glue on another Picture This DVD--the 2007 French In the Arms of My Enemy/Voleurs de chevaux, (Horse Thieves), dir. Micha Wald, with Gregoire Colin, Francois-Rene Dupont, Adrien Jolivet and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet--reminded me of the Netflix availability and I'm ordering it from them now (Oct. 28, 2008).

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