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Undertow (DVD)

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Actors: Manolo Cardona, Christian Mercado, Tatiana Astengo / Director: Javier Fuentes-León / Classification: 15 / Studio: Axiom Films / Released: 27 Sep 2010 / Run Time: 100 minutes

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      13.02.2013 17:32
      Very helpful



      Love in its many forms

      Star - Peru
      Genre - World Cinema
      County - Peru
      Certificate - 15
      Run Time - 100 minutes
      Amazon - £6.99DVD
      Blockbusters - £0.99p per night rental

      How ever many Latin and South American people there are living and working in the United States, legal or illegal, they don't seem to want to watch their own movies, this rather excellent and beautifully set love story from Peru taking just $38,000 in US cinemas. Considering there are over three million South Americans in Florida alone I find that figure shocking, and they don't have to battle with subtitles. It's almost as if they have gone to America to escape their culture and admirable film industry that defines them and joyously reveling in become a dumb American to escape that creativity, Die Hard and Batman more culturally important now to Latin's than beautiful films like this. Ok, maybe a gay ghost story from a simple fishing village is not everyone's cup of tea but at least try to enjoy your cinema guys and girls. World Cinema is by far the most superior genre out there and our filmmakers of the world make some amazing films. But because the Latin's don't flock to see them then there is no buzz created and the films don't register at the big awards and so left to blokes in Northampton in the grey and soggy midlands to big them up.


      Cristian Mercado ... Miguel
      Tatiana Astengo ... Mariela
      Manolo Cardona ... Santiago
      Attilia Boschetti ... Sra La Rosa
      José Chacaltana ... Héctor
      Maria Edelmira Palomino ... Doña Flor
      Julio Humberto Cavero ... Padre Juan
      Haydeé Cáceres ... Trinidad
      Emilram Cossío ... Pato
      Cindy Díaz ... Isaura
      Juan Pablo Olivos ... Tano
      Christian Fernandez ... Jacinto
      Monica Rossi ... Ana


      A secluded Peruvian fishing village sits serenely under a cobalt blue sky, caressed and cradled by a likewise sea on a rocky remote shore, humble shacks and sun-bleached boats completing the pastille colored paradise. The surrendered catch dictates their lives as the men trawl the ocean and the women gossip and clean all day.

      Ruggedly attractive but simple fisherman Miguel (Cristian Mercado) appears to be a pillar of this community; popular, God-fearing and respected. He is married to pretty local girl Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), and a father to be. By day he fishes with the men and by night breaks bread and a beer or two with his friends before returning home to the wife. But Miguel is living with a secret, sexually attracted to visiting artist Santiago (Manolo Cardona) from the big city, who rents a beach hut in a secluded cove just down the shore from the village and enjoys painting and photographing Miguel nude, resulting in a rather unlikely relationship, no bigger taboo in this part of northern Peru.

      When the village starts whispering he is not only confronted by his wife's suspicions and his own guilt but a terrible accident, a man lost at sea and the ghost haunting him, haunting him most of the day. In Catholic belief a dead person can't pass into heaven until the body has been recovered, blessed and buried in sacred soil, this particular body being dragged further and further away by the oceans vicious undercurrents. Miguel conscious has no choice but to put things right with his wife and his friends of the deception so both he and the ghost can rest in peace and so pull each other both back from purgatory.


      I don't know what it is but Latin film just has the passionate edge and iridescent splendor other countries film industries can never discover. It may be that reverence to Catholic imagery or just a simple lust to make vibrant and sensual movies but whatever it is they just look as beautiful and sultry as their dusky senoritas. Even the washing on the line is color coded here for best visual effect. David Hockney would be proud of this particular palette.

      Director Paulo Fuentes-Leon does well to allow of what there is of the tryst to outgrow the limits of the stories confines and refreshingly takes no sides in the deception, carefully explaining the dilemma facing the three principal characters through a balanced narrative and leaving it up to us to decide the moral centre of the film. I'm sure homosexuality is equally hated around the world in blue-collar communities because of the threat to their machismo and this film understands that by allowing the haters enough room and the chance of compassion to come around. After all homosexuality in men is genetic so it's hardly their fault. Would any of those macho fishermen be able to deal with such a monkey on their back, the only point of the movie, we presume.

      The supernatural side of things isn't presented in a spooky way but the ghost merely the moral centre of the movie, a sinecure to love and what love is. If you want someone you want them and that's the end of it but some people can't see it that way. Gay men can be over demonstrative in a confrontational way because of their search for equality and can irritate the more unsophisticated male but by having the more unsophisticated male here the gay man then you can pick apart that conflict.

      As always the Latin actors are superb and electric on screen and don't let you drift off to put the kettle on in the more tranquil moments. Cristian Mercado as Miguel manages to make his simple character sophisticated in his acceptance of his homosexuality whilst making the more intelligent and metro sexual Santiago (Manolo Cardona) the humble one now. Its just one of those films and directors that have been able to used the material given to expand it into something very good - a movie about love, the male ego and why family will always come first to your lustful temptations. As the Guardian film hack quotes -'If you only see one gay Peruvian fisherman ghost story this year then make it this one...'


      Imdb.com - 7.5/10.0 (2,421votes)
      Metacritc.com - 76% critic's approval rating
      Rottentomatos.com - 88% critic's approval rating


      Village Voice -'Set in a small, picturesque Peruvian fishing village, it's less a coming-out tale than a magic realism-infused coming-of-consciousness love story'.

      Miami Herald -'Right from the start of Undertow, writer-director Javier Fuentes-Leon refuses to reduce any of his characters to clichés, which gives the film its fresh, captivating power.

      Film4 -'A watchable and well-intentioned drama, but one which risks losing its footing straddling a somewhat awkward gulf between Sunset Beach and magic realism'.

      The Independent -'Undertow, for all its narrative tricks, has been given the rhythm and texture of real life, as well as emotional undercurrents that are haunting'.

      NYC View - 'A captivating, breathtaking and intricately layered amalgamation of heartfelt drama, romance and magical realism'.

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