Twenty-four crucial hours drift slowly by in Sergio Mazza’s effectively moody feature debut, “The Yellow.” Once the pic is transferred from its current sub-grade vid print to 35mm, its impact will be clear, but even now, Mazza’s skill at sustaining scenes with characters caught in wordless limbo and emotional tension is undeniable. Constantly teetering on the edge of static cinema and yet holding on to a sense of human connection, quiet pic will need loud critical support to find auds beyond top-flight fests.
A man (Alejandro Barratelli) arrives on a boat in a rural Argentine town, seeming like the proverbial Stranger from Westerns. Indeed, Mazza’s basic storyline adheres to the classic Western form, with the drifter catching the attention of a woman named Amanda (Gabriela Moyano) who works and sings in local dive “El Amarillo” (The Yellow) run by older, crusty Myrtha (Myrtha Frattini).
The extreme contrast between the dusty, forlorn exteriors in this outpost in the Entre Rios region of Argentina, and the lush nighttime interior of the club itself, where Amanda sings lovely, sonorous ballads is striking.
“The Yellow” is essentially a fable of human contact, as Barratelli’s stranger gradually works up some warmth and familiarity with Amanda, whose only previous outlet was her singing. Mazza — also credited as one of three editors — exercises immense patience with his actors and camera as he sustains shots during the time the two slowly adapt to one another.
Mazza’s faith in his cast is returned in a satisfying end that’s, per the nature of the film, tentative but filled with possibility in a land the modern world seems to have forgotten. Barratelli and Moyano create the sort of sustained perfs more typical of stage than cinema, while working in a quiet naturalistic manner that never feels forced.
Film transfer is a must for any future fest or commercial viewing, since vid version at Buenos Aires was unacceptably dim and low-contrast.