Thursday, 18 June 2015

REVIEW - MAGICAL GIRL (CARLOS VERMUT)


Irreconcilable dichotomy is the intentional focus of Magical Girl, and its unintentional downfall. An affected, carefully-constructed film, it explicitly, and ponderously, dwells upon Carlos Vermut's duelling impulses as storyteller and as philosopher; you can't fault his enthusiasm to demonstrate his skills with either, though you could fault the skills themselves. At many junctures, Magical Girl threatens to become the film its constituent parts demand of it, whether those parts lean toward brilliant or banal - the film entire is neither of those, consistently compelling (past an early stretch defined by the woodenness of Vermut's technique and the woodenness that inspires in his actors) but only inconsistently satisfying. The point seems to be to juxtapose rigorous intellect with sentiment, rationality with irrationality. Pithy nods toward mathematics and literature don't illuminate this conflict, though the innate interest in Vermut's ever-shifting scenario does. Its soap opera pleasures are more appealing than the higher intellectual purpose Vermut has for them, alas, but at least they serve some purpose. It's in his efforts toward contemporary relevance that this emerging filmmaker looks backward, evoking the erotic dramas that were prevalent in Europe in the '70s. This update proposes a dichotomy in itself, and not a flattering one - a concern with sexual fantasy is belittled by a willful, though unwittingly prudish, concern with reality. Magical Girl's sex is a pointless poison, and Vermut only wishes he had anything to say in sensationalising and antagonising his characters' desires. It's indicative of the pretension that resides behind many of his narrative choices, one that he hopes to disguise by reframing them as his characters' choices, spontaneous rather than considered. Wisely, this leads Magical Girl down blackly comic paths as it reaches its end, indulging in a silliness that is successful enough to be excused.