In this commentary on cinematic rituals, the star of Alonso’s earlier film, Los Muertos (Vargas), wanders through the Argentine cinématheque in Buenos Aires, Teatro San Martin, searching for the film premiere in which he is the star. In contrast to his other films, Fantasma charts a journey that unfolds almost entirely within interior spaces without diminishing the power of his contemplative style.
A work that links La Libertad and Los Muertos, Fantasma (2006) is a one-hour treasure that marks a new high for the Argentine filmmaker. Set in a multiplex in Buenos Aires, Fantasma ports Vargas and Misael, this time devoid of any fictional trappings, from the lush, impenetrable greenery of the South American forests to restricted, deceptive and equally alien interiors of this concrete jungle. However, the human yearning for locating oneself within the world around remains as intense as ever. The four or five characters that we see in the film wander the empty corridors of the building like ghosts that have haunted an abandoned cinema hall. They are rarely seen in the same frame and, unlike the earlier films where they seemed to conquer new areas, keep covering the same set of spaces, taking turns (in a humorously Tati-esque fashion). Alonso isolates them from each other, boxing them out within this human grocery store with his (oft-repeated) compositions. But this sense of urban alienation and lack of communication is only the surface aspect of Fantasma. Two or three of the characters watching Los Muertos on screen in that near-seedy theatre is a grand symphony of cultural uprooting that resonates on multiple levels. In a way, the film’s closest cousin would be Tsai’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), where too the pathetic human condition was reflected and distilled in the dilapidating condition of the cinemas of yesteryear. Alonso’s film takes an equally nostalgic, elegiac and optimistic look at a world lost and an art rendered irrelevant.
Argentine filmmaker Lisandro Alonso (b. 1975) combines the formal techniques of fiction and documentary cinema to create his meditative, mysteriously atmospheric films. Each of his four films to date—La Libertad (2001), Los Muertos (2004), Fantasma (2006), and Liverpool (2008)—closely follows the quotidian movements of a solitary man to signify a larger journey or inner quest. The nonprofessional actors’ seemingly prosaic activities—cutting wood, journeying home, searching for a theater—become powerful allegories when set against vast landscapes, dreamlike sequences, cinematic manipulations, and soundtrack music. Alonso’s formally rigorous, minimalist works are utterly unique in contemporary Latin American cinema. (-Museum of Modern Art)
Few directors today possess the fortitude of vision and resolute commitment to an ideal of formally rigorous narrative cinema of Argentine filmmaker Lisandro Alonso (b. 1975), one of the most accomplished and original artists working in contemporary Latin American cinema. Alonso’s four films – La Libertad (2001), Los Muertos (2004), Liverpool (2008) and the featurette Fantasma (2006) – have renewed the promise of the nuevo cine argentino of the 1990s by turning away from the decidedly mainstream direction subsequently taken by many of that movement’s more prominent directors and towards a mode of radically minimalist cinema that bends traditions of both documentary and narrative film. Meditative and melancholy, Alonso’s films offer lyrical variations on the theme of solitude, with each of his three features haunted by the enigma of lonely wanderers drifting with deliberate but unstated purpose through remote hinterlands – the endless pampas in La Libertad, the teeming jungle in Los Muertos, the frigid snow country of Tierra del Fuego archipelago in Liverpool. The sensorial detail evoked by the films’ desolate settings – and captured by Alonso’s exquisitely choreographed 35mm cinematography – marks a powerful contrast to their deeply interiorized protagonists, an elemental tactility of heat and cold and wind and stars that gives Alonso’s cinema the mysterious lucidity of a waking dream. Richly abstract, the films of Alonso’s tetralogy of loneliness are anchored by the weight and mystery of their remarkable non-professional actors and by the almost fable-like dimension of Alonso’s stark and mesmerizing tales. (~harvard.edu)
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