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Country Music

As easygoing and rambling as its wandering hero, Alberto Fuguet's "Country Music" is a likable tale of a Chilean man trying to get his bearings in Nashville.

Cast:
With: Pablo Cerda, James Cathcart, Jeffrey Novak, Cole Kinnear, Karin Davidovich Whitehouse, Ezra Fitz, Todd Hughes, Elle Long, Lori Harrington (English, Spanish dialogue)

As easygoing and rambling as its wandering hero, Alberto Fuguet’s “Country Music” is a likable tale of a Chilean man trying to get his bearings in Nashville. Pic might qualify as the first Latin American-made mumblecore movie, preserving many of that genre’s ambling, talky qualities, and adding the accent of a foreigner attempting to make sense of America, and maybe find a way into the music biz. Distribs typically averse to South American cinema may show interest, as will a long roster of fests.

Fuguet’s previous feature, “Velodrome,” also starring Pablo Cerda — in that film as a handsome guy who loves bicycling around Santiago at night — lacked a basic character interest that comes through in “Country Music.” With this anchor, the film’s looseness acquires a foundation, as Cerda’s Alejandro — jilted by his (unseen) American g.f. — wishes to stay in a country he barely knows but suspects offers him a promise of better things.

Alejandro is a stranger in a strange land — a classic American immigrant willing to work any job (he’s seen cleaning bathtubs, swimming pools, porches and basements) who happens to be vaguely interested in country music. Writer-director Fuguet resists serving up the usual showbiz saga of innocent ambition, more interested, rather, in the cinematic textures of watching characters wander through neon-lit city streets or lying expectantly in bed in cookie-cutter motel rooms, waiting for something to happen.

Looking scruffier and hairier than his clean-cut role in “Velodrome,” Cerda elicits amusement and sympathy as Alejandro struggles with his rough English to explain his predicament to strangers, including a coffee shop waitress (Lori Harrington), a Buenos Aires woman studying at Vanderbilt U. (Karin Davidovich Whitehouse) and a pair of guitar-playing dudes who welcome Alejandro into their house as a roommate (James Cathcart, Jeffrey Novak). During the mumblecore exchanges, the guys manage to denigrate recent Clint Eastwood films and praise Robert Altman — particularly, of course, “Nashville.”

Fuguet finds a talented collaborator in U.S. cinematographer Ashley Zeigler, who creates Edward Hopper-esque pictures in the film’s many nocturnal sequences. Song selection, a mix of country and rock tunes by Gustavo Leon (some performed live during club scenes), brings the project a solid musical credibility.

Country Music

Chile-U.S.

Production: A Cinepata production. Produced by Sarah Childress. Executive producer, Ted Fischer. Co-producers, Alberto Fuguet, Mauricio Varela. Directed, written by Alberto Fuguet.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Ashley Zeigler; editor, Sebastian Arriagada; music supervisor, Gustavo Leon; production designers, Ryan Buckstar, Sarah Reid, Stacy Greenberg; sound (stereo), Russell Sharpe, Levy Nguyen, Pharra Perry, Dean Mengaziol, Sarah Childress, Kristin Park; sound designer/re-recording mixer, Cristian Mascaro; associate producers, Pablo Cerda, Rene Martin; assistant director, James Cathcart. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Film Festival (competing), April 7, 2011. Running time: 105 MIN.

Cast: With: Pablo Cerda, James Cathcart, Jeffrey Novak, Cole Kinnear, Karin Davidovich Whitehouse, Ezra Fitz, Todd Hughes, Elle Long, Lori Harrington (English, Spanish dialogue)

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