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Thread: ARDOR (Pable Fendrik 2014)

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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    ARDOR (Pable Fendrik 2014)

    Pablo Fendrik: Ardor (2014)


    Rumble in the jungle

    Gael García Bernal, shirtless and carrying a machete, is stalking bad guys in the Argentinian jungle in Ardor. He is a strange spiritual or mystical being but also a guy whose house has been destroyed up the river by bad guys. What is going on? It is hard to tell because the action moves at a snail's pace, except for sudden spates of violent action in which people are slashed or shot -- or punctured by darts? Is that what they were? It's often dark, though the images are beautiful. But people don't talk much. An engaging experience for some, but for others, this is the kind of movie you'd like to walk out of during the first half hour, at most. This is how you may experience Ardor; it's off-putting.

    But there is an elaborate explanation, semi-evident from the start. The bad buys are agents of ruthless land-grabbers, and fires they've set have been sweeping through the rain forest. One of our first sights is of a corpse covered with blood. They have been after the humble tobacco farm of João (Chico Díaz) and his beautiful daughter, Vânia (Alicia Braga), and Kaí (Garcia Bernal) has come to help them, tattooed with native images on his back and linked with his catlike, barefoot moves to the native tiger (which we see occasionally CGIed into the scene). The bad guys have killed Vânia's partner, Jara (Lautaro Vilo). kidnapped Vânia, and threatened João to make him sign over the farm in a bogus document that Kaí steals back.

    This may seem an exotic, violent form of mumblecore; the Spanish dialogue literally seems to be mumbled under the breath. If anything keeps you with the action, it is beauty. Gael García Bernal is as handsome and charismatic an actor as ever, even if he seems a bit wasted (he may have been attracted by the film's ecological or political content, though that is swamped by the thick atmosphere). Alicia Braga is striking too, and they both seem to bloom in the humid heat. And the cinematography of these murky, tropical locations is so damn beautiful. The action and some of the props -- pistols, men's broad-brimmed hats -- suggest a Western, by the way, and spurts of conventional movie music further allude to Sergio Leone. But this film is too stifled in its rhythms to qualify even as a very stylized Western. It's a hippie mood piece that at times thinks it's a Western, then forgets.

    One can't help thinking of García Bernal in the wilds another time -- in Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet (NYFF 2011), an altogether more pointed and effective film. But of course where there he plays a coward, here he has the unusual, and for him and his many fans not unattractive, opportunity to portray a sort of mystical action superhero. It's for this that Ardor may be remembered.

    Ardor, originally El Ardor ("The Burning"), 101 mins., debuted 2014 at Cannes out of competition in a "special screening section," and has shown at other international specialized festivals. Ardor was considered as Argentina's Best Foreign entry for the 87th Oscars but Damián Szifrón's Wild Tales won out. Ardor opens July 17 at the Four Star Theater in San Francisco and IFC Center in New York City.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-16-2015 at 09:23 AM.


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