'It's Alway Sunny in Philadelphia'

A small pic with a big punch, Enrique Rivero's "Parque via" lingers in the cortex way longer than its content would seem to justify.

A small pic with a big punch, Enrique Rivero’s “Parque via” lingers in the cortex way longer than its content would seem to justify. A study of self-imposed solitude that’s not boring, and an exploration of repressed emotions that’s not alienating to the viewer, tale of a longtime caretaker of a vacant house whose self-contained existence is suddenly threatened plays almost like a low-key psychodrama or cerebral thriller. One of the very few films that showed real originality in this year’s Locarno competition, where it copped the Golden Leopard, this could carve out a modest arthouse niche with critical support and fest kudos.

Debut feature of former a.d. Rivero (“La influencia”), and of Rivero and producer Paola Herrera’s new shingle, Una Comunion, is “based on the life” (per main title) of Nolberto Coria, who also plays the lead. Like the film’s protag, Coria has worked as a caretaker for a Mexican family all his life, though the direction in which pic finally leads is clearly fictional.

Beto (Coria) is an aging but still trim “Indio” who, for 10 years, has been looking after an empty luxury house in bustling Mexico City. Cut off from the world by high walls, and settled into a routine of eating spartan meals, cleaning and watching violent news reports on TV, he seems an island unto himself.

Opening long take, following him around the house, establishes not so much the layout of the place, but rather the character’s absolute solitude and almost militaristic precision. Thereafter, thankfully, the movie is conventionally shot and edited, with careful compositions by d.p. Arnau Valls Colomer and a slightly cool look that stems from 16mm lensing prior to (a pretty sharp) 35mm blowup.

Beto’s only contacts with the outside world are occasional visits by the house’s immaculately coiffed and emotionally reserved owner, known simply as La Senora (Tesalia Huerta, superb); her driver, who brings Beto newspapers now and then; and a realtor who shows prospective buyers around.

Also visiting Beto, on a paid basis, is middle-aged bar-girl-cum-hooker Lupe (Nancy Orozco). But Beto, essentially, is content within his self-imposed prison — so much so that, when he goes shopping one day with La Senora, he passes out from a form of agoraphobia.

At the 50-minute mark, news comes that the house has been sold. La Senora tries to do her best for Beto, who will soon be homeless and jobless, but events take a sudden, surprising turn.

Though it’s clear from their looks and demeanor, the social divide between the upper-class La Senora and working-class Mexican Indian Beto is never put directly into words. He seems happy with the status quo and respectful of his employer, and she, in her own cool way, is attached to her loyal servant. Pic’s power comes from the way the final act, though seemingly out of left field, in retrospect makes sense based on tiny nuances in the performances.

Given that the entire cast is non-pro, kudos are due for Rivero’s direction. Helmer shows a clear respect for basic film grammar throughout, especially in sequences of Beto’s weekly routine. However, he also manages to draw from Coria a performance that never reduces Beto to an object of pity: If anything, he is a gruff, somewhat ornery character, with few social graces, whose independence has become virtually an obsession, especially as he has been living on borrowed time for so long.

Use of existing music, including Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in G minor, adds fitting emotion, especially in the final reels. For the record, the house in which pic was mostly shot actually belonged to the helmer’s grandparents.

Parque via

Mexico

Production

An Una Comunion production, in association with Estudios Churubisco Azteca. (International sales: Una Comunion, Mexico City.) Produced by Paola Herrera, Enrique Rivero. Directed, written by Enrique Rivero, based on the life of Nolberto Coria.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Arnau Valls Colomer; editors, Javier Ruiz Caldera, Rivero; art director, Nohemi Gonzalez; sound (Dolby Digital), Raul Locatelli; sound designer, Alejandro de Icaza; assistant director, Isabel Gines. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 6, 2008. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Nolberto Coria, Nancy Orozco, Tesalia Huerta.
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