CANNES 2019: LAND OF ASHES AND FOR THE MONEY

This entry was posted on May 26th, 2019

By Mónica Delgado

Land of Ashes is the first feature in the history of Costa Rica participating in Cannes. Directed by Sofía Quirós, it’s an intimate film with oneiric touches, about an adolescent without parents who lives with her grandparents in a jungle zone. Presented in Critics’ Week, Land of Ashes can’t escape some classic elements of Latin American exotization; however, it does possess a wonderful actress: Smashleen Gutiérrez.

Sofía Quirós shows some skills when she builds quotidian situations through this interaction between the adolescent daughter and her very old grandparents. The filmmaker allows us to see wrinkles, tired skin, almost blind gazes, while the generational dialogues, spicy and trustful, appear between the characters. The familiar environments are shown with closeness, from a camera looking for gestures, careful when capturing the way things are said. The verbal games, which seem to be hostile, transmit the idea of a family joined by its own codes.

Maybe the oneiric touches of some scenes, where the dead mother appears in stylized moments as part of rites of encounter or premonition, seem lesser in comparison to the avtars of Selva’s character, looking for her grandparents (despite being people who seem quite independent) or when she passes her days in school.

Argentinian filmmaker Alejo Moguillansky’s For the money has a staging not quite different to his previous works like the great La vendedora de fósforos or El escarabajo de oro. Narrative baroque methods, only this time from the point of view of a French narrator, who appears in the story from his narration in a police investigation (in a very Dumontian-comedy style) after a double murder in a Colombian beach.

The film is based on a theater play with the same title and cast, (where Moguillansky himself plays a role), that gives account of the adventures of a theater caravan in a tour to Bogota, where it has to compete with other groups (of more marketable and grandiloquent staging) for a juicy money prize. The thesis of the film is seeing how this group of artists slowly disintegrates thanks to the dirty money. For that purpose, Moguillansky turns to a style which is very related to the French New Wave (the first films of Truffaut and Godard, in this style of comedy, black cinema and drama), supported by a French narrator who is supposed to connect with a European spectator. And the musician character (Gabriel Chwojnik) who works composing soundtracks for advertising but whom also participates in the theater work (of Brechtian and experimental cut), is the best thing about the film.

If we look the Moguillansky film inside the panorama of Latin American films presented in this Cannes, we can affirm that it shows a filmmaker with an own style, that firmly constructs his imaginaries through this formal ludism which is quite characteristic of him. It can also be said that it’s the only film of the region which escapes the classic exotism that is linked with Latin American cinema in European festivals, a film which dispenses with miserabilism and social poverty, this politics “for export”, and frees its filmic and artistic ghosts with a space for the criticism of consumerism, without being too obvious. And that’s something to be valued.