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Tourists

After frolicking in the urban sandbox of "Play," sophomore helmer-scripter Alicia Scherson brings the city to the country in "Tourists," an adeptly written journey in which the protags learn to open up to themselves as well as to their rural backyards.

With:
With: Aline Kuppenheim, Marcelo Alonso, Diego Noguera, Pablo Ausensi, Viviana Herrera, Sofia Geldrez, M. Helena Bernales, Claudio Rodriguez, Tichi Lobos.

After frolicking in the urban sandbox of “Play,” sophomore helmer-scripter Alicia Scherson brings the city to the country in “Tourists,” an adeptly written journey in which the protags learn to open up to themselves as well as to their rural backyards. Working from the concept that society tends to throw things away before understanding their uses, Scherson focuses on an indecisive woman coming to terms with what she really wants. Boasting inventive lensing and an unerring feel for dialogue, “Tourists” should have no problem getting its passport stamped across Spanish-language territories, while fests will welcome this Chilean visitor.

Biochemist Carla (Aline Kuppenheim) has a passive-aggressive relationship with hubby Joel (Marcelo Alonso), exemplified by their drive to a vacation spot, during which she casually lets slip that she recently had an abortion. When she makes a pit stop in the woods, Joel drives off, leaving her stranded. Hitchhiking back to Santiago, she meets Norwegian student Ulrik (Diego Noguera), who persuades the 37-year-old to join him camping in a nearby national park.

Screen-filling closeups of plants, insects and water underscore the symbiotic relationships of nature — something completely lacking in the odd assortment of human residents catering to the seasonal tourists. While Carla grapples with an unfulfilled life, Ulrik is even less sure of whom he wants to be. Though Scherson’s dialogue is pitch-perfect, her structure occasionally slips, and she seems uncertain how much to integrate Ulrik into the pic’s main thrust.

Pervading the film is the sense that Carla (and by implication, humanity) destroys things before fully using them — her marriage, of course, and a guitar she burns in the woods — but references to a road being built through the park, and even the compromised ozone, reinforce the sense of a society too quick to destroy what it has without considering its real value. Thankfully, Scherson is too subtle a writer to tie everything up at the end, and though the last quarter feels almost as directionless as her characters, she maintains Carla’s complexity and contradictions without compromising the story.

Thesping is uniformly excellent, with Kuppenheim (“Play”) deserving most of the praise. Blow-up from HD is flawless, fortunately devoid of the hard-edged digital coldness that too often spoils lensing in the great outdoors. Especially noteworthy is the superb sound, capturing nature’s vibrating racket, presaged by the opening music’s gentle cacophony.

Tourists

Chile

Production: A La Ventura production, in association with Arauco Films, Faune Prods. (International sales: La Ventura, Santiago, Chile.) Produced by Macarena Lopez. Directed, written by Alicia Scherson.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Ricardo de Angelis; editor, Soledad Salfate; music, Philippe Boisier; production designer, Sebastian Munoz; costume designer, Carolina de Maria; sound (Dolby Digital), Miguel Hormazabal, Marcelo Corvetto; casting, Claudio Rodriguez. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2009. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: With: Aline Kuppenheim, Marcelo Alonso, Diego Noguera, Pablo Ausensi, Viviana Herrera, Sofia Geldrez, M. Helena Bernales, Claudio Rodriguez, Tichi Lobos.

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