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Cannes Film Festival, 2008: "Liverpool" (Alonso, Argentina)

Liverpool
Above: Farrel (Juan Fernandez) disembarks to visit his family in the mountains.
"Anywhere but here" is the common phrase, but Liverpool's variation seems to be "anywhere but anywhere." Lisandro Alonso's follow-up to Los Muertos is another mostly unspoken journey, but that film's flirtations with myth and regression—traveling from prison to jungle—makes Liverpool's revelation as a journey of banality all the more surprising.
A boat worker, Farrel (Juan Fernandez), spends his shore leave traveling from the port city to a rural community in the mountains build around an old saw mill. Ostensibly traveling to see his mother, Farrel takes his time and drinks enough alcohol along the way to suggest a significant confrontation is brewing. But the result couldn't be further from the suggestion. Alonso's single-shot observational style records only dry action—Farrel getting dressed for a night shift, packing his bags, waiting for a ride to the mountains, or pulling yet another swig from his seemingly bottomless bottle of vodka. The result is that the confrontation between Farrel, his mother, and the daughter he left in the logging camp has the same anti-dramatic weight as a shot of Farrel zipping up his handbag or eating a meal.
The cumulative impressiveness of the completely measured banality of Liverpool, avoiding both pictorialism and the pretentious weight in its simple, realist, but distanced camera set-ups, must be extended to Alonso's people (characters they are not in this non-drama) and to Liverpool's world. The reveal of the reason behind the film's title seems to make it clear—this is a deadened, unhappy life of routine, remorse, and work, wherever it is, whatever you do. An object that another film would use as a romantic starting point—a cherished souvenir from a mysterious world abroad—here becomes a kind of final punctuation: banal, so much so it might even be darkly humorous. This is what it is like in this world, and only the most resolute and dedicated cinema could express such a philosophy without succumbing to the very malady effecting its world. Alonso's brilliant, slow-burning simplicity creeps slowly but definitively, and its impact continues to entwine itself after its scenes of brutal disinterest and deeply repressed unhappiness routinely proceed past. It is a sign that Liverpool is not nearly as banal as it seems.
Cuando sales de ver la película te quedan imágenes perfectas, como cuadros de Hopper. Crees que viste une historia simple, casi inexistente. Luego conversas con las personas que vieron la película contigo, y te das cuenta de la cantidad de puertas que ha abierto en cada uno. Y ves de otro modo a la gente que cruzas por ahí : qué historia de cine (casi) mudo contarían si les preguntaras qué ha sido su vida? Ambiciosa misión la que se ha impuesto Lisandro Alonso : hacer mejores seres humanos…
Any chance of getting that in English C.? I saw this film again at the Toronto Film Festival and think it is one of the best film’s of the decade…
Worth translating, very roughly (very continental!): “when you leave the theater after seeing the film, what remains with you are these perfect images, like Hopper paintings. You think you´ve seen a simple story, almost non existant. Later you talk with the people who saw the movie with you, and you realise the number of doors it´s opened for each of them. And you see, in another way, the people who cross through them: what talke from the movies, (almost) silent, would tell us if you ask them what their life has been? An ambitious mission it is that Lisandro Alonso has set out for himself: to make human beings better…” Not sure that´s right, but really hope it is. When do I get to see this thing?
sorry, should read closer to “what would all the stories from cinema, (almost) silent, tell us if you asked them what their life has been?”…
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Yes good translation. I would only correct the doors opened inside the viewers, and there is a confusing use of singular/plural, but I think his point was that he would like to hear the kind of stories (akin to silent movies) would tell the fictitious characters we see in this film, like if their slow lives in this remote area was in themselves like a scenario of a possible silent film. That’s what I understand. Maybe I’m assuming too much though. Very nice comment indeed.
Wow, great comment C., and excellent translation David.

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