Helmer-to-watch Jose Luis Torres Leiva ditches the contemplative beauty of his debut for the dull naturalism of mumblecore in his sophomore feature, “Verano.” Shot on a Hi8 camcorder and resembling grainy homemovies from the 1970s, the pic feels like an experiment gone wrong, cutting among characters at a thermal resort who rarely connect and have little to say even as subtext. Some fests will put “Verano” in a “new trends” showcase, but fans of Torres Leiva’s earlier “The Sky, the Earth and the Rain” will hope this mere doodle is a temporary blip in a promising career.
Visitors and workers at a spa town in southern Chile go about their day in different ways. A waitress gets napkin-folding lessons; Isa (Rosario Blefari) learns she’s pregnant; Julieta (Julieta Figueroa) tells hubby Francisco (Francisco Ossa) she doesn’t want kids. An overhead shot of a bitch with puppies pushes the child-bearing theme, though the overall premise relies more on the contrast between life on vacation and at home, and fails to build sympathy for these uninteresting nonentities. A few scenes switch to still photos with continued sound, like early Chris Marker.