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Pozoamargo

(Enrique Rivero, Mexico/Spain, 2015)


 


Pozoamargo is a Mexican-Spanish co-production; its director, Enrique Rivero, was born in Spain but is based in Mexico. I was impressed by his Parque via (2008), a small gem that moved from the Jeanne Dielman-like record of a quiet man’s servitude in a wealthy home to a sudden, turnaround, blunt-force-trauma conclusion (as slow cinema is sometimes wont to do).

Pozoamargo also – for good and for ill – has a critic immediately reaching for comparative equations: it’s Lisandro Alonso (Jauja and pre-Jauja) + Abbas Kiarostami (zig-zag roads in distant fields) + Carlos Reygadas/Amat Escalante (a pig munches on our hero’s face as he lies under the rubble of a collapsed building) + Béla Tarr = …

It’s also a tale of guilt and flight. Jes­ús (Jesús Gallego) has – as a gruesomely close-up insert of his penis over the toilet bowl reveals – raging Venereal Disease. He abruptly leaves his partner, his home and his village with a plan to disappear into anonymity. Next stop: Pozoamargo in Castile, sheltering a close-knit, farming community of churchgoers who all, equally, seemed wracked by either guilt or sexual frustration.

When history inevitably begins repeating itself for Jesús, he decides to end it all, about one hour into the full 99 minutes. That is when the movie does its reality-warping switch, from colour into black-and-white, and possibly also into a more mystical realm of shadow-selves and second chances. (Just watch out, in this space, for the flesh-eating animals out for karmic revenge).

It’s easy to make it sound derivative and second-hand. But – especially in its first hour, before the Turin Horse-like solemnity sets in – Pozoamargo is quite captivating. This is, on no small account, due to the taciturn, granite-like presence of Gallego in the lead role (on screen for virtually every second).

Rivero has yet to entirely find his own voice as a director, but he is someone to keep a close watch on.

© Adrian Martin February 2016


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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