The Pearl Button (2015)

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Second time with Guzmán; Nostalgia For The Light, which I watched last year, mixes with The Possibilities are Endless and The Act of Killing in the cream of contemporary documentary film.

Where NFTL slowly teased a cosmic theme through emerging parallels between two Chilean projects seemingly connected only geographically, TPB starts with a central concept – water, in all forms – and expands outwards and chronologically forwards through the country’s history, threading through events like a string through beads.

Haunting archive photography: Chilean immigrants predating the Europeans by several thousand years, Kawésqar faces – silent (silenced) though the water testifies through its own “language” and the historical parallels with, again, Pinochet’s desaparecidos, unaccountably returned to the land from ocean’s “cemetery.”

The other side of Herzog’s golden coin? How does Guzman (again) marry Planet Earth-style macrocosmic montage and gesticulations towards elemental, planetary, cosmic significance with ‘stories’ frustratingly and completely human (absurdity, futility, but visionary possibility)? Here he makes an explicit connection in the mythologies of the Chilean aboriginals but the film is doing the real work around this. Like harmonising brass bass felt deep in the organs with the pitch and heady wail of a violin; breaking out trembling at the skin.

Again effective sparing use of talking heads, though PG’s own voice is more present in this one, and more guiding than in NFTL, which gave the impression that he was learning through telling the story, one of NFTL‘s notable singularities.

Though I’m not qualified to say confidently, this really feels like significant postcolonial work; same reaction as to Pedro Costa’s Horse Money.

Somehow a worthy cousin to one of the better films, documentary or other, of the last half dozen years.

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