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Friday, November 29, 2013

BONSAI (2011)

Except for its cinematographer, none of the creative principals in front or behind the camera on this bewitching little art film has more than a handful of credits. Yet, it’s the ‘find’ you long to stumble upon in the corner of some film fest. Chilean writer/director Cristián Jimenez has a wonderfully unobtrusive eye for handsome, narrative-charged compositions, even his choice for the background of the chapter titles radiates with visual pleasure. Here, he balances grace & emotion with an easy touch in a story that unfolds on two timelines, set eight years apart. Diego Noguera is the young, struggling writer who’s just been underbid for a job typing up a famous author’s latest hand-written novel. Rather than admit to the disappointment, he starts a charade for his girlfriend, buying four notebooks that match the author’s and handwriting a novel of his own to type up. For a story, he dives into the recent past, his own romantic life eight years back when he was still in college. The set up is somewhat farcical, and the film has much warm humor to it, but the tone is more romantic than comic, eventually darkly so. The cast is attractive (in and out of clothes) and the situations grow intensely involving, even though Jimenez does let everyone take their time more than he ought to. Chances for a major career working out of Chile is anyone’s guess, but original voices that dazzle quietly, speaking rather than yelling, voices worthy of comparison with an Aki Kaurismäki, are too rare to ignore.

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