A correction was made to this review on July 14, 2004.
Neruda scholar Mark Eisner has created a straightforward, well-crafted overview of the great late Latin American poet’s life, work and times in this new documentary. “Pablo Neruda Presente!” is getting its world premiere in conjunction with a San Francisco multimedia festival commemorating the centennial of the subject’s birth. Pic should have a long shelf life as an educational and broadcast item.
Narrated by fellow scribe and Chilean Isabelle Allende, pic begins with the oft-repeated notion that Neruda died in 1973 — during the military coup that put Pinochet’s brutal regime in power — of a broken heart. Certainly his lifelong socialist political ideas had taken enough punishment already, especially during a period of forced exile that only served to heighten his international fame as both artist and outspoken humanitarian. From boyhood to student radicalism, early literary successes and parallel career as a consul appointed to various nations, Neruda lived a remarkably adventuresome life. (His romantic life tended to roam, too.) Archival footage, recited passages from the Nobel Laureate’s hugely influential writings, handsome shots of the native landscapes he loved, and interviews with surviving intimates make smoothly handled package a well-rounded salute.