Review: ‘Devil’s Point’

Vet Argentine producer Marcelo Pavan's impressive "Devil's Point," a moody tale of a brain surgeon's confrontation with his own mortality, is an exceptional experience in sight and sound. Dominant locale on a remote, windswept Uruguayan peninsula serves as a physical representation of the doctor's well-concealed emotional state.

Vet Argentine producer Marcelo Pavan’s impressive “Devil’s Point,” a moody tale of a brain surgeon’s confrontation with his own mortality, is an exceptional experience in sight and sound. Dominant locale on a remote, windswept Uruguayan peninsula serves as a physical representation of the doctor’s well-concealed emotional state. Local opening on Oct. 5 launches what’s sure to be a desired item in specialized markets in mostly Latin American and Euro art outposts.

Pic reps an interesting trend in recent Argentine cinema, most recently in Pablo Trapero’s “Born & Bred,” where men living in wealthy surroundings end up in dramatically difficult, even Biblical, circumstances.

Doctor Roberto (Manuel Callau) learns he has a potentially fatal brain tumor. Pavan and screenwriter Enrique Cortes (“Tattoo”) opt for a thoroughly non-melodramatic approach, suggesting a dream state through Roberto’s hypnotic voiceover narration and Rolo Pulpeiro’s floating camerawork. The doctor realizes he has a newfound connection with his brain cancer patient, Lydia (Prakriti Maduro).

Faced with the grim medical prospects, Roberto suddenly seems to drop everything (whatever family members he has are never seen) and drives south from Buenos Aires. Spotting a woman who closely resembles Lydia, the curious Roberto follows her car, which leads north and into Uruguay.

Robert is very much a fish out of water, and his arrival in the remote coastal town of Punta del Diablo powerfully conveys the man’s quiet disorientation and growing sense of his life’s end. But Cortes’ smart and witty (even pun-filled) way with dialogue adds another layer.

Pic’s condensed, short story-like narrative comes to a head when Roberto beds down in a shack operated by fisherman Franco (Lautaro Delgado), where the woman spotted on the road is also staying. Maria (Romina Paula) is involved with Franco, but grows friendly with Roberto, each sensing a deeper connection that neither completely articulates.

The uncertain triangle’s developments defy expectations, which is only part of the film’s pleasures. In a setting where only Franco is completely at home (particularly in his aging fishing boat on the open ocean) and most characters are in some sort of exile, a mood of shifting feelings, desires and general instability keeps the film on a shifty dramatic edge.

Pavan makes his pic’s world vivid — masterfully captured by Pulpeiro’s widescreen lensing and by Carlos Bolivar’s and Osvaldo Anderssen’s acutely realized soundtrack — even as he stresses subtle underplaying by the thesps, allowing the whip-smart dialogue to come through.

Devil's Point

Argentina-Venezuela-Uruguay

Production

A Primer Plano Film Group release (in Argentina) of an El Puente Producciones/Aleph Media/Coop. de Trabajo Felei CQ/Nativa Productora Audiovisual/Taxi Films production. Produced by Pablo Rovito, Fernando Sokolowicz, Martin Cortes CQ. Executive producers, Mariano Chino Fernandez. (International sales: El Puente Producciones, Buenos Aires.) Directed by Marcelo Pavan. Screenplay, Enrique Cortes, based on an idea by Pavan.

Crew

Camera (Cinecolor, widescreen), Rolo Pulpeiro; editors, Luis Rahamut, Fabio Pallero; production designer, Eva Duarte; costume designer, Emilia Recabarren; sound (Dolby Digital), Carlos Bolivar, Ramon Rivas; associate producer, Hugo Castro Fau; assistant director, Ana Ines Berard. Reviewed at Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, Oct. 13, 2006. (Also in San Sebastian Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast

With: Manuel Callau, Romina Paula, Lautaro Delgado, Axel Pauls, Maria Onetto, Prakriti Maduro, Claudio Corbelli.
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