Friday, 16 October 2015

LFF REVIEW - THE PEARL BUTTON (PATRICIO GUZMAN)


A constant stream of digression, as in the opening quote, 'We are all streams from one water'. The Pearl Button finds beauty and life in the tales it tells from the water, a documentary that's both detached in its restlessness and delectable in its tangible empathy. Patricio Guzman tells the first tale of the water itself, impeccably captured so as to emphasise its essentiality; Katell Dijan's photography is as magical as it was in Guzman's last film, the similar (and superior) Nostalgia for the Light. He tells the second tale from the water, of Chile's indigenous people, detailing their way of life then and their struggle for life now. He tells the third tale, of a country that has separated itself from the water, allowing its resources to be exploited and its inhabitants to be massacred. Guzman has previously theorised about the inexistence of the present, that all we can know or experience resides in the past; his argument that Chile's past crimes continue to resonate today, still flowing through its vast waters, is potent and powerful. His embrace of water as a subject, if not so much as a theme, in The Pearl Button yields bountiful visual rewards, a soothing presence through a film that's often in need of this such lightness. And the attention he pays to a dwindling race of forgotten people is honorable and touching. But despite the connections between The Pearl Button's three narrative strands, connections which are barely stated though implicit in the evidence, Guzman can't cause them to coalesce in a manner that justifies their juxtaposition in one feature. He digresses, and does so with earnestness in his heart and an obvious eye for obvious beauty, but his digressions decrease the importance of these key directorial traits.