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."

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.

Verano

Chile

Production

A La Ventura production. (International sales: M-Appeal, Berlin.) Produced by Alicia Scherson. Directed, written by Jose Luis Torres Leiva.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Inti Briones; editors, Andrea Chignoli, Torres Leiva; production designer/costume designer, Catalina Devia. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 8, 2011. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Rosario Blefari, Julieta Figueroa, Francisco Ossa, Ignacio Aguero, Mariana Munoz, Muriel Miranda, Rodrigo Lisboa, Norma Norma Ortiz, Claudio Riveros, Alejandra Moffat, Gabriela Aguilera, Eliseo Atallah Aguilera.
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