At the tender age of 34, uber-precocious Argentine director Lisandro Alonso has already achieved more than most of his peers could dream to. Of his four feature films, three have premiered at Cannes; all three have won awards at international film festivals. His print and web presence spans the pages of The Village Voice, Artforum, Cahiers du cinema, and The Auteurs, to name a few favorites.
To look at Alonso, you'd be hard-pressed to guess he's such a big deal on the international stage. With his five-o'-clock shadow, shoulder-length unkempt hair, and plaid flannel, he looks more like a Seattle grunge kid transported from the Showbox floor in 1994. (In fact, Alonso ditched out early on last night's post-screening Q&A at the Northwest Film Forum to go see the Pixies: "Sorry, but if my friends in Buenos Aires heard that I had a chance to see the Pixies and didn't, they would kill me").
Alonso did speak about his work, though, and his sensitivity is as obvious as his manner is unassuming. He approaches filmmaking with a humility, patience, and sense of place that contribute to dreamy works of "anthropological exploration," to quote NWFF Programmer Adam Sekuler.
[caption id="attachment_18684" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Argentino Vargas in Los Muertos"][/caption]
Los Muertos, which screened last night and shows again Sunday at 7, follows an aging man recently released from a long prison sentence, who travels over land and water to find his daughter. 73 minutes long and shot in under 70 takes, Los Muertos allows lay actor Argentino Vargas to simply exist on the camera—a camera which barely leaves him and his craggy face at any time during the film.
He rows a skiff and slaughters a goat with the ease of breathing, as cinematographer Cobi Migliora's camera frames him in textured backgrounds: Tangled jungle, brick walls, cast iron gates, gravelly roads.
Alonso says he searches out locations before he comes up with stories for his films, and Los Muertos proves it. If you're looking for a gripping plot, his work isn't for you. If, however, your attention can be grabbed by a camera floating through a kaleidoscopic bubble of soft-focus, sun-limned foliage, and held by graceful, but matter-of-fact observations of an everyday life (very different from yours), you'll want to go to the NWFF before November 19.
Alonso is here through Sunday, and besides appearing at his screenings, he'll teach a master class and complete a short for NWFF's one-shot film commission series. Seeing as his features could be divided into a series of gorgeous one-shot shorts, I'm pretty excited to see what he turns out in my native Washington.
Really, don't miss this series—it's one of the most important to hit Seattle this year.
Full schedule here.