Global Film Initiative // 2009 // 117 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // August 3rd, 2011
A long time ago, the gods created man so perfect that they began to fear for their powers.
In 1964, a truck driver and a prostitute discover an infant boy in the desert nursing on the breast of his dead mother. This juxtaposition of life and death introduces us to the Mexico of director Alejandro Gerber Bicecci. It makes for a startling opening image that sets up interweaving tales of the residents of a poor neighborhood and their struggles for survival and happiness. Often dark and sometimes funny, Becloud is an interesting film, if not an altogether successful one.
Much of the action takes place years after the opening incident, although it switches around a lot. The truck driver has opened an ice factory and lives with his grown son, José (Francisco Godínez), who wants out of the house to start his own life. Down the street lives the loveless Felipe (Aldo Estuardo), who runs an internet cafe and has eyes for one a certain lovely patron. Further down, Andrés (Roberto Mares) spends his time studying Aztec history and fend off the menace of his drunken father. Together, they make up a tapestry of life in urban squalor.
The opening of the film is a startling image of horrific poetry, one that will stick with you as it does the characters who witnessed it. Unfortunately, it's the best part of the film. The rest of Becloud is not bad by any means, but it is a clear step down from how it starts. Bicecci tells his story in non-linear fashion, jumping from story to story and time to time, likely to add a dreamy quality and to give greater emotional impact to the events at the end. This gimmick, though, gets overused and I never really liked it in the first place. It obscures the story and makes things seem like fancy coincidences until they're revealed as quite mundane. The individual events are generally well done, but it comes off as a series of vignettes when it could be a cohesive whole. I don't need linearity, but as in a film like Enter the Void, my favorite of 2009, there must be a reason to jump through time for it to work.
It's a shame too, because the other pieces of Becloud are pretty nice. The characters are well-drawn, different in their own ways, but they genuinely appear to reside in the same neighborhood and carry many of the same goals and aspirations. The cinematography by Alberto Anaya (Nora's Will) is strong, and the locations are put together nicely. The city is an ugly, depressing place, and certainly made to look this way, while the deserts and other natural vistas are beautiful and shot perfectly. It has a dreamlike feel that works much better than the same quality in the story, and the beginning and ending are both quite affecting (though the first more than the last), though the middle portion is less so. Becloud is a good film, not a great one, but it has its moments of emotion and drama, with a solid production behind it. I can mildly recommend it.
Global Film's release of Becloud is average for the label, and it actually has a meaningful extra, which sets it apart from many of their discs. The image doesn't look great, but it's acceptable. There's a slightly hazy quality to it, but it has decent coloring and a good grain structure. It has a decent stereo mix, but nothing great, with a little noise, but clear dialog. The big problem with the disc is the burned on subtitles, and that's frustrating, but at least I don't know Spanish (in this case, I suppose). For extras, we have our usual discussion guide from the Global Film Initiative, but we also have a half-hour featurette on the production, which is an informative piece and a welcome addition to the DVD.
It's a better DVD than most from this label, but only slightly better than average film. It's still worth seeing for the opening and closing bits, as well as the performances.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Global Film Initiative
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Discussion Guide