The best praise I can give a film is that it reminds me of Buñuel, so when I describe Pablo Larrain’s latest, Neruda, as Buñuelian you should know that I don’t do so lightly.
Neruda is a biopic of the Chilean poet-politician, but one that heartily embraces the ambiguous blend of fact and fiction that defines biographical films. eg. One of the film’s earliest scenes has the unapologetically Communist Neruda (Luis Gnecco), address his political rivals from a urinal in a lavishly-furnished toilet, and the film that follows similarly teeters on the border between seriousness and ridiculousness (hence the comparison to ol’ Buñny).
The film covers Neruda’s flight from Chile’s senate, as he hides from imminent reprisals, and the quest of policeman Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) to find him. The aforementioned melange of silly and solemn is best realised in the mystical, moving third act, which dissolves the integrity of Peluchonneau’s character until he’s explicitly revealed as a fictional character within the diegesis.
Heady stuff; not for everyone. But definitely for me, even if I admit minor vexation at Larrain’s insistence at a homogenous, lens-flare-heavy look. Give me some visual diversity, and I’m ready to proclaim it a masterpiece.