The nice Chilean documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán doesn’t grapple with the thought of eternity in his new image, “The Cordillera of Dreams.” He sits with it, patiently. He considers it by way of metaphor, as his digicam slowly considers the chain of Andes Mountains that makes up the cordillera of his film’s title.
Drone pictures are overused in films, usually predictably so; this chic movie, although, abounds in nice, distinctive ones. Guzmán’s lens flies the approach you would want your personal eye might, unveiling unimaginable pure magnificence and revealing secrets and techniques: a labyrinth of gorges for example. The filmmaker’s narration nuzzles up to the metaphysical, and ceaselessly anthropomorphizes the mountains that virtually seal off Guzmán’s homeland. But given his personal story and the story this image wants to inform, the film toggles between heights and depths.
Guzmán left Chile in the 1970s. As depicted on this account, he exiled himself to Cuba virtually carrying reels of movie beneath his arms. Those reels grew to become his signature work, the acclaimed documentary The Battle of Chile, a searing chronicle of the coup that felled Salvador Allende Gossens and culminated in Augusto Pinochet’s fascist rule. Guzmán did not return to his homeland for decades, and one of the sites he visits in this film is his childhood home in Santiago, the facade of which seems immaculately preserved. But the house has no roof, a cue for one of the movie’s drone shots.
“Santiago receives me with indifference,” muses the filmmaker, whose voice is heard throughout but who is never seen except in archival footage.
Memory and loss are interwoven with an activist sense of lineage. (The movie, which won best documentary at Cannes last year, is the last part of a trilogy; the prior pictures in it, “Nostalgia for the Light” and “The Pearl Button,” are in a similar mode.) Guzmán interviews writers and artists who remained in Chile after he departed. One of them, recounting the propaganda of the day, chillingly recalls how “The Left became a demon that had to be eliminated,” a state of affairs that evokes both a distant past and our immediate present. Guzmán eventually settles in with Pablo Salas, a documentarian whose archive of footage in different film and video formats is fascinating.
Once Guzmán starts discussing how Pinochet and his cronies used “the Chicago model” to bring their country to economic ruin, you may think, given the depredations these figures committed, that he’s talking about Al Capone. Except he’s talking about the American economist Milton Friedman, of the University of Chicago, whose prescriptions Pinochet followed. “The Cordillera of Dreams” is a beautiful film about nightmares that have yet to end.
The Cordillera of Dreams
Not rated. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes.
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