Metal & Melancholy

This perceptive doc focuses on Lima taxi drivers, capturing both the economic straits and indomitable spirit of Peruvians in general. While subject is hardly an easy sell, humorous, in-depth treatment could win limited exposure outside the fest circuit.

This perceptive doc focuses on Lima taxi drivers, capturing both the economic straits and indomitable spirit of Peruvians in general. While subject is hardly an easy sell, humorous, in-depth treatment could win limited exposure outside the fest circuit.

Helmer Heddy Honigmann grew up in Lima, then immigrated to Europe at age 22. Twenty years later she trains camera on a baker’s dozen or so cabbies, young, old, male and female, as they opine on dangers and pleasures of the job, their own life stories and their nation’s gutted infrastructure. All of them — even a glimpsed man raving on the street — have sharp political insights.

Cruising around, director and her drivers are endlessly solicited by pre-adolescent-to-elderly vendors. Demonstrating his elaborate car theft-thwarting devices, one cabby says, “You have to be ingenious to survive this crisis.”

Subjects’ anecdotes gradually shift pic from amusing to poignant tenor. One early interviewee discusses his acting career, complete with one role’s weepy highlight; tears shed later by a struggling single mother are for real.

Populace’s anything-to-survive pluck is illustrated by the cop who stops to sternly check Honigmann’s papers, then pipes: “I’m a taxi driver too! You want to film me?” In this society where corruption at the top has rendered the middle class virtually non-existent, everyone’s a hustler by necessity.

Despite largely passenger-seat p.o.v., film manages to avoid claustrophobic feel. Tech values are modest but effective, with especially good sound recording under the circumstances.

Metal & Melancholy

Production: A VPRO TV presentation of an Ariel Film production. Produced by Susanne Van Voorst. Directed by Heddy Honigmann. Screenplay, Honigmann, Peter Deipeut. Camera (color, 16mm), Stef Tijdink; editing, Han Hendricks, Danniel Danniel; sound, Piotr van Dijl; Peru production assistance, Inca Films. Reviewed at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, May 7, 1994. (In S.F. Intl. Film Festival.) Running time: 80 MIN.

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