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Non-Review Review: Lo Que Más Quiero (What I Love The Most)

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The movie that will quite possibly be forever known as “the longest 70 minutes of my life.”

This is actually one of the more interesting shots of the film...

What I Love The Most is arrogant and self-indulgent film-making taken to the screen. It’s a rambling piece which insists on giving us long stationary shot after long stationary shot. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume the reason that the film is comprised of what’s effectively a series of long-takes is because the camera operator just fell asleep. I’m going to be honest and concede that the opening shot of the two characters sitting on a rock, discussing life and love, did pique my interest. It was fascinating to hear the characters trade organic anecdotes as a speed boat snaked through the lake below. It’s a nice shot, one that captures the beauty of the countryside and the natural warmth of human interaction. Unfortunately, it’s the only time that these factors are present.

The movie has several cardinal sins, all of which combine to make it borderline unwatchable. The first, but by no means the most serious, is the fact that it wastes the beautiful surroundings of Argentina. There’s no sense of place in the film, but – more than that – it just looks ugly. For most of its runtime, the film looks like it could have been filmed in Vancouver (with no offence intended to Vancouver, I am just referring to the way that Canada’s generous tax breaks have ensured that its forest stands in for every forest ever on film). For a movie based around a vacation, there’s no sense of what makes this location unique – it could be literally anywhere else on the planet.

The second sin, which is more serious, is that it’s just padded. I’m not quite sure how you make a seventy-odd minute film seem to last an eternity, but this movie accomplishes that feat. If you aren’t going to bother to offer us lovely scenery, there’s no need for your shots to linger as long as they do. We really don’t need a five-minute shot of a man cutting down a tree in painstaking detail from a distance. We don’t need to linger on a dump thirty seconds before the characters enter and leave the shot. We don’t need to see the same conversation four times between one character and four random people.

However, the third sin is the greatest. If it wasn’t for this one, the other two would almost be forgivable. The simple fact is that we don’t care about anybody in the film. The characters are so bland as to be vacuous, all filled with stereotypical teenage angst about crap that doesn’t really matter – while the film never really addresses some of the issues that might legitimately need to be discussed (opted to feature a bland break-up over the death of a loved one). You might argue that the film is “understated”, but this film is so “understated” that I’d be checking for a pulse.

And that’s the sad truth. If its characters actually seemed more than a bland collection of teenage existential worry, then we might be able to invest. The film bored me with a series of long, self-indulgent takes – in contrast, Preludio engaged me with one single take and two well-formed characters played by two capable actors. Instead, I felt like I wanted to reach into the screen, tell them to cop the hell on (or otherwise develop personalities). Seriously! Go do tap dance lessons or learn an instrument or become a ventriloquist! Do something!

Go jump...

There’s a scene where the lead characters share a beer. Rather than having the cooler box on screen and in arms reach, it’s about five metres out of shot. One of the characters wanders off to get a beer and is gone over a minute before returning with a beer. It’s right there! It shouldn’t take more than ten seconds, fifteen if you stop to admire the view. When she returns, she remarks on the cans, “Look at how many I have.” However, it sounds like a threat directed at the audience – a sort of “call my bluff” from the director (“you don’t think we’ll send her off camera again? well watch this!”).

Now, one would assume that this moment might require some conversation or soul-searching – a moment of understanding between the two. Nope. They just sit there and drink beer. Sure, there are questions asked, but not especially deep ones and certainly not any answered. Instead, the movie might as well have replaced the subtitles of the scene with big block capital letters going “LOOK HOW SUBTLE AND SOPHISTICATED WE ARE.” I have no problem with movies that don’t have definite conclusions, or which don’t wrap up anything. If handled well, an inconclusive ending can spark audience thought and introspection. Instead, there is nothing of interest here.

It’s bad. It’s really bad. I’m generally reluctant to say anything too harsh about a film – I’ll try to find something to love about even the most awkward and under-developed little genre piece. However, there’s just something about this film which rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s the fact that the film tries to convince me that it’s some sort of masterclass in sophisticated cinema, when it’s really just a boring dud. The movie seems so self-assured and presumptuous and so wryly assured of its own elegance – confusing shallowness for subtlety. It, to borrow a somewhat overuse term, “insists upon itself.” I think I’d respect it more if it acknowledged how self-indulgent it was.

I’m open-minded when it comes to film. I want to love cinema. I’ll dig around for something to recommend a movie, but I just can’t find anything here. Maybe it’s the fact that a smaller-scale movie, with less takes and more subtlety (set on a balcony rather than in the beautiful surroundings of Argentina), managed to blow my socks off the previous day, or maybe it’s just that the movie is so self-consciously “elegant” and “graceful” and “subdued” (and all those other buzzwords we use to substitute for “boring”) that it could almost pass for a parody of what many dismissively refer to as “art house fare” – but I don’t like this film. I really, truly don’t.

I don’t normally score my reviews, but the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival does give an “audience award” and asks the audience to rate the film out of four. In the interest of full and frank disclosure, my score is: 1.

4 Responses

  1. I saw this at the same screening, and it wasn’t great. I didn’t mind it as much as you, but it just went on and on. I think the guy next to me was snoring.

    • I think that might have been me. 🙂

      Just kidding. I don’t know. it was just as if the movie was wandering around blind, unsure what it was trying to say and ending up spending a lot of time talking, but saying nothing – while pretending to be “deep” or insightful”.

  2. I think you’re being a little unfair. it was elegant and beautiful. Just because it doesn’t feature crap and explosions like every other major Hollywood release.

    • You’re right, of course – there are big crap movies out there. But it’s unfair to assume that just because a movie is financially successful it’s crap or because a movie is foreign produced it’s well-made. There are good and bad movies which fall into each category.

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