Review: ‘Coronation’

A keen sense of rhythm and atmosphere invigorates a familiar story of loneliness and obsession in "Coronation," an absorbing but overlong item from Chilean vet Silvio Caiozzi. Pic earned him the director prize from the Montreal jury, yet may prove a challenging sell beyond fests and strong regional play.

A keen sense of rhythm and atmosphere invigorates a familiar story of loneliness and obsession in “Coronation,” an absorbing but overlong item from Chilean vet Silvio Caiozzi. Pic earned him the director prize from the Montreal jury, yet may prove a challenging sell beyond fests and strong regional play.

On Santiago’s once-wealthy west side, 58-year-old Andres Abalos (Julio Jung) lives with his vigorously senile 97-year-old grandmother Elisa (Maria Canepa) in a large but tired mansion stuffed with bric-a-brac. Elisa becomes increasingly unmanageable, prompting Don Andres to hire 17-year-old Estela, the niece of domestic Lourdes (Gabriela Medina), to assist with her care.

Slowly, the reclusive intellectual begins to obsess over the teenager, discreetly observing the growing passion between her and the impoverished Mario (Paulo Meza) while powerless to control the dissolution of his own life and house.

Caiozzi, a former cinematographer whose directing credits include the 1990 drama “The Moon on the Mirror,” takes an appropriately novelistic approach to the material. Chapter-like blackouts often punctuate story, with clear relishing of such whimsical details as a fat bee buzzing above alfresco lovemaking and the counterpoint of stars in a moonlit sky and falling sequins catching their light.

Yet the pic’s very strengths are what give it the air of an ordeal, like reading a weighty tome in a single sitting. With nearly an hour between opening credits and Abalos’ discovery of the young lovers, impatient auds may begin to resist craft in favor of forward progress.

A mask of weary pain pasted on his jowly face, Jung holds the screen as the mournful Humbert Don Andres, in strong contrast to Maria Canepa’s manic yet crafty turn as the mentally deteriorating matriarch. Jaime Vadell provides a comic highlight as absurdly rich doctor who proves to be an exuberantly sloppy party animal.

Tech credits are meticulous, with Marcos Maldavsky’s thunderous Dolby Digital mix both a blessing and a curse. Per helmer, pic was six years in the making.

Coronation

Chile

Production

An Andrea Films production. (International sales: Andrea Films, Santiago.) Produced by Silvio Caiozzi, Guadalupe Bornand. Directed, written by Silvio Caiozzi, from a novel by Jose Donoso.

Crew

Camera (color), David Bravo; editor, Fernando Guariniello; music, Luis Advis; art director, Guadalupe Bornand; sound (Dolby Digital), Marcos Maldavsky; assistant director, Nelson Fuentes. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (competing), Sept. 1, 2000. Running time: 139 MIN.

With

Julio Jung, Maria Canepa, Adela Secall, Gabriela Medina, Jaime Vadell, Myriam Palacios, Paulo Meza, Luis Dubo.
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