Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hotel Atlantico

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: Hotel Atlantico, directed by Suzana Amaral

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

Suzana Amaral's films linger long after the closing credits. They haunt you: characters who seem merely ordinary people become embedded in your mind. Amaral's feature debut, The Hour of the Star, was released when she was fifty-three and became a unique and surprising hit. In it, Amaral created a poignant portrait of a seemingly dull character, Macabea, an incompetent secretary, that resonated in unexpected ways. More than a decade later, the director released another moving character study with A Hidden Life. Now this accomplished auteur presents Hotel Atlantico, a mysterious and atmospheric journey through the landscape of Southern Brazil. It is a testament to Amaral's great talent that her third fiction feature is screening as part of this year's Masters programme.

Hotel Atlantico
follows an unnamed man as he wanders through Brazil, living life in the moment without ever having a clear destination. Sometimes referred to as “The Artist” by those who recognize him from a telenovela in which he starred, the man is drifting, taking a voyage of discovery and allowing fate to decide his course. He is always accompanied by death in his travels, from those who expire at his side to those who wish him dead.

There is a palpable Lynchian aura to the film, with a vaguely defined threat seeping through the scenes. At the same time, the narrative and the performers are going with the flow, exuding a “living in the moment” energy that may be due to Amaral's Buddhist beliefs. She elicits wonderfully nuanced performances from her actors. Our Artist seems at times tough and distant, at others vulnerable and kind. The film is infused with humour and sexuality – an unexpected popcorn sex scene in priests' robes is a highlight.

Hotel Atlantico
explores the mysteries of life through our protagonist's approach to his travels, which are always marked by unexpected adventures. Amaral directs her narrative in an arc without a set conclusion, giving the effect of a journey that continues long after you've left the theatre.

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