(Verano, Josť Luis Torres Leiva, Chile, 2011)


There is a special type of voyage, a kind of ceaseless border-crossing that I seek in cinema: the skidding between or merging of different genres, tones, filmic approaches …


Watching Summer, I felt the same powerful sensation that I did upon encountering Ana Poliak’s Faith of the Volcano back in 2001: that of straying back and across an extremely thin, light, permeable barrier between fiction and documentary – thanks, mainly, to the “affordances” (as we say today) of digital filming.


What Summer does, essentially, is what has defined modern cinema since at least Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage in Italy (1953): compelling your performers to actually travel somewhere by car or train or foot, enter a real holiday resort, interact with actual local inhabitants – and to strike the roughly pre-planned fiction (as one strikes a match) off the fabric of these quotidian happenings.


But the digital camera technology allows this trembling slippage between registers in a new way. José Luis Torres Leiva is a filmmaker I like. In his haunting, mutely essayistic documentary haunting Three Weeks Later (2010), he used all the resources of static camera and long take that this new form allows. Here, by contrast, he pushes almost into Philippe Grandrieux territory (if we can imagine a summery rather than nocturnal and wintry Grandrieux!), with extensive overexposure and blur.


Summer is one of those movies so light you feel it could vanish at any moment – Grandrieux’s own digital portrait-piece Masao Adachi, unveiled the same year, had that aura as well. This is actually quite an achievement, something hard to do in cinema – all the Old Masters (Jean Renoir, Alain Resnais, Bernardo Bertolucci) longed for that Mozartian touch sustained over an entire feature, as part and parcel of their so-called “late styles”.

© Adrian Martin March 2012

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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