Fabulist cinema about, of all things, accordion culture in 1968 Northern Columbia. Ciro Guerra’s richly imagined film recalls the Taviani Brothers, say, NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS/’82, but intimate rather than epic; South American rather than Italian. It really is the story of an accordion and a reluctant accordionist. A special, hard to play instrument, it’s taken an unhealthy possession of current ‘keeper,’ middle-aged troubadour Ignacio. Recently widowed, he’s now desperate to return the accursed accordion to its original master hundreds of miles away. Joined by a young acolyte who wishes to learn its secrets (and just get out of town), their long, dangerous journey is studded by a series of startling set pieces that border on magical realism, tested by natural terrain & human foible. A village accordion competition with improvised verses used to attack. A sudden command for accordion accompaniment to a duel of love & honor on a wooden bridge. A sacred convocation of indigenous drummers hoping to earn a blood baptism. A brotherly meeting (and fare-the-well) at a mountain abode. Even murder . . . of an accordion! All unlikely, all enthralling. (With perhaps two too many. Must there always be a cock fight in these things?) The pacing can turn a bit glacial at times, but if it’s a trudge, it’s a bewitching one. Never more so than at journey’s end.
DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, SHOOTING STARS; or more Guerra with his remarkable follow up, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT/’15. (See below)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Who knew ACCORDION would be such a fun word to type?