Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 5

Huacho (Chi/Fra) (site)

Named after the city in Peru, this film is about the lives of the members of a peasant Chilian family as they go through a typical day. Huacho is another film to take as a relaxing meditation on life, it's four chapters playing out methodically by non-actors cast into the family roles, giving the film a semi-documentary style.

Gathering with friends and relatives in their modest family dwelling, each day they have a little sanctury to themselves to live simple lives before the stresses of the next day come along. Grandma Clemira buys milk and makes cheese from it, selling it with the younger women at the roadside to anyone who passes by, although takers are scarce now the price of milk has gone up. Her colleagues aren't sticking firm with the agreed prices either. Mother Alejandra has a prettier sister and works hard as a cook in a local restaurant. She has no money to keep the clothes she buys and so has to give them back after wearing them once, and the world around her seems to be young and vibrant wherever she goes. Her son Manuel attends the school a long bus ride away when they can afford to send him, and is ostracised from the little cliques of friends for his background and family. Only the grandfather, 'Don' Cornelio, who is nearing the end of his working life appears to be enjoying it at all, but even he curses the old body he is trapped inside and his lost years, the glint of youth still evident in his eyes. He spends his spare time contemplating the price of his funeral on the family and what he can leave them.

So, not what you could call happy material to work with, and yet, when I left the cinema, I was not sad for them, as they also had many things to be contented with in their lives. Not least the beautiful countryside setting, the long summer days and the close-knit community in which they live. I suppose all suffering is relative. 7/10

Leap Year (Spa) (review)

Filmed almost entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a poky little Mexican flat, and featuring only a handful of characters, Leap Year is a sombre and sometimes shocking look into the life of a damaged soul as she searches for love. Laura is a freelance journalist getting by with her job writing pieces for a business paper. She's plain looking, and though definitely not shy, she has great trouble maintaining any affections from the numerous men she brings back to her flat, most choosing to silently leave the following morning. Choosing Feb. 29th on her calendar as the day by which things need to change, she makes an extra effort and finds Arturo, who shares an immediate sexual attraction. Arturo however has a violent streak which manifests itself in increasingly violent encounters in the bedroom, which Laura, (incredibly) relishes, subtly suggesting to the viewer the source of her psychological problems.

WARNING: Boobies!

Going from a sad tale of a lonely, desperate woman to something much darker, Leap Year will shock people in much deeper, more personal ways than a slasher horror film ever could. Laura's psyche is laid bare, the view behind her protective curtains seen only by her and those she lets get close, and her truest feelings of where she is headed and how she wants to get there do not make themselves known before their time on screen. A personal, intimate study of those on the edges of a community knocking but unable to get in. Credit goes to actress Monica Del Carmen for a truly brave performance you won't forget. 7.5/10

Mundane History (Thl) (imdb)

Pun is a male nurse charged with looking after a young man after an accident. He has to do everything for him, from helping him eat to bed baths, and never leaves his side. Ake himself is understandably frustrated with the situation and uncomfortable at the invasion of his privacy. His distant father is of no help, and so it is down to the actions of Pun to try and stop him from retreating further into himself as the days and weeks pass.

A very individual take on the healing process, the second half of Mundane History might well confuse and annoy the viewer as it dissolves the storyline completely and concentrates entirely on the subject of spiritual rebirth during a day trip out. Consequently I think this may go down better with those familiar with eastern customs and beliefs. Personally I found it too abstract. 5/10

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