The sternly minimalist "Fogo" is nothing if not a film in the image of the titular, sparsely populated island off Newfoundland.

A slight speck of narrative in a vast expanse of almost-empty landscapes, the sternly minimalist “Fogo” is nothing if not a film in the image of the titular, sparsely populated island off Newfoundland. Decidedly less talky than her much-lauded debut, the nonfiction “Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies,” Mexican femme helmer Yulene Olaizola’s latest evokes the hard-knock life of the Canuck isle’s (fictional) last few male inhabitants, whose lives consist of walking their dogs, chopping firewood, drinking home-brew and muttering the occasional word in lieu of conversation. Commercially DOA, this could shine brighter at avant-garde fests and galleries.

Crisp and lingering shots of Fogo’s heathland and its few and severely dilapidated wooden houses — think “The Shipping News” minus the Hollywood patina — wordlessly suggest an explanation for the offscreen resettlement of the dwindling population that Olaizola hints at but never explains. The last living souls’ decision to stay behind registers as an act of quiet defiance and loyalty to their land, even if sustenance seems practically impossible. Sound design, crystalline HD lensing and soundtrack of existing instrumental work by Pauline Oliveros help envelop auds in the island’s desolate atmosphere.

Fogo

Mexico-Canada

Production

A Malacosa Cine presentation and production, in association with Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia, Fogo Island Arts Corp., in association with Interior 13 Cine. (International sales: Pascale Ramonda, Paris.) Produced by Yulene Olaizola, Ruben Imaz. Directed by Yulene Olaizola. Screenplay, Olaizola, Ruben Imaz, Diego Garcia, Norman Foley, Ron Broders, Little Joe.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Diego Garcia; editor, Ruben Imaz; music, Pauline Oliveros. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 24, 2012. Running time: 61 MIN.

With

Norman Foley, Ron Broders, Little Joe. (English dialogue)

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