The only connection Judge Daryl Loomis has to the upper crust is a pizza joint in Santa Fe.
How do they remember such crap? They have nothing better to do.
A Latin American film that satirizes the upper class and features an attractive cast is a movie that I want to watch. If all else fails, those three elements will get me to look at it, and probably forgive a lot of its problems at the same time. So, here we are with Dioses, a Peruvian film released in the States by the Global Film Initiative, that stars a pair of stunning actresses and sends up the banality of the rich. It's not a perfect film, but guess what: I walked away happy.
Facts of the Case
Elisa (Maricielo Effio), a model from a working-class background, falls for Diego (Sergio Gjurinovic), an ultra-rich industrialist, and is all set to marry him. It seems like all her problems with be solved with the money she'll soon have, but her troubles are only beginning. Now, she must deal with Diego's two children, a pervy son (Edgar Saba) and a wild daughter (Anahí de Cárdenas), both of whom freak her out a little. On top of it, she now finds herself embarrassed by her upbringing and must deal with that shame while looking happy for her new husband.
Directed by Josué Méndez (Days of Santiago), Gods is a solid film, overall, but one with a few problems. He directs the film with a certain amount of style and draws good performances from all the actors, but the satire is too understated and I was left lacking the sense that he really takes a bite out of the Peruvian upper crust. He portrays the family as pretty scummy, and Elisa, while sometimes a sympathetic lead, comes off appropriately shallow, but I found the film to be a little bit that way, as well.
Because the characters and performances are good, I'm left to blame the story for the problems. While not badly told, necessarily, it feels as much like a slice of life film as anything else. Without a structured plot, it meanders until it ends and ends without a punchline. Truly effective satire must be pointed, and an open-ended storyline is a big hindrance to that. By allowing these characters to move freely in their lives after the movie ends, without consequence or comeuppance, Méndez fails to drive home a point. Instead, it becomes an observation that the rich and privileged often lead sad, corrupted lives and use their power to hurt others, including those in their own class and even their families. I agree with the sentiment, but so what?
If I come across a little harsh here, it's only because I was looking for more. Everything else fits in place for a fine production, and Gods should be better. The performances are all quite good, from Effio's lead to Gjurinovic's nasty pragmatist to Saba's creepy-feely son, everyone is very effective here. The direction is good; the film moves quickly and the screenplay makes sense, though it doesn't go far enough. The only place where the story really hits home, though, is when Elisa deals with her family. In these scenes, whether through phone calls or dream sequences, her shame about her normality is palpable. It's disgusting and wrongheaded on the character's part, but the idea is delivered very well.
Global Film releases good films with decent transfers, but they're all bare bones editions, and Gods receives the same treatment. The image is acceptable, but not great; there some blurriness in some scenes and the black levels aren't quite up to snuff, but the colors look pretty good. The sound is a little better, but by small measure; no noise to speak of, but also not particularly dynamic. The only extra is the typical one for Global Film: a discussion guide. It's just too bad I don't know anyone who will discuss obscure Peruvian films with me.
Gods has its moments. Very good performances and a few effective scenes make the film worth watching, but there's certainly more interesting satire out there.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Global Film Initiative
• Discussion Guide
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