10/8 - What immediately strikes one about Southwest is the captivating texture of the black and white cinematography, as the camera tracks carefully across a grove of dried weeds, revealing a horse and driver making their way to the town of Southwest; a poor, remote Brazilian village that is the singular location of Eduardo Nunes's inventive first film. The texture and beauty of those images are a lot of what carries Southwest for it's first few acts, and although I was a bit concerned that it's aesthetic quality, combined with the magical-realist conceit of it's premise, were perhaps not going to be enough to lead us to a satisfactory conclusion, the film became truly transcendent in it's final movements, with an ending that is a stunning meditation on the place where the mysteries of death and memory converge with the light and sound of cinema.
The synopsis for Southwest in the festival guide lets us in on the unique narrative device of the film: a female experiences her entire life in a single day, while those around her stay in their everyday plane of existence. This is done through a subtle substitution of actresses along the way, each one coming off as remarkably consistent. The film succeeds in this rather difficult exercise of character exploration primarily because of the time the director takes to build visual elements that resonate with greater force as the film follows its linear path. Visually, the film felt firmly rooted in the tradition of Tarr and Tarkovsky, although the use of music tended to break from that tradition, at times seeming to leap out of nowhere from what was an otherwise entirely effective aural design.
A special congratulations to Nunes, who attended the screening and answered questions afterward, informing us that it took ten years to raise the money for Southwest, his first film, and that the CIFF screening was happening before any of the actors or crew had even seen the film. I hope as many eyes as possible fall on Southwest at the CIFF, as it is sure to offer something up for anyone who sees it, particularly if you like a bit of a meta-cinematic vibe.
Up Next: American Translation