‘La Llorona’: The Incredible and Haunting Film From Guatemala

La Llorona (2020) excels to create an interesting new take on the folk tale filled with horror and insightful nuances.

CREDIT: La Casa de Production

Just like many Latinos, I was told the fear inducing story of La Llorona at a very young age. I was about six years old and my abuelita told us the story of this “weeping woman.” Now, the version I was told goes as follows. La Llorona was an indigenous woman who lived by the border. She had two kids, a boy and a girl, who she loved very much but she fell in love with a man who lived in the United States. La Llorona falls for the man but his feelings aren’t as strong as hers. After a rocky relationship he leaves her and she stays in Mexico while he travels up north for work. La Llorona believes that nothing could be wrong with her that could cause this man to leave her. She comes to the conclusion that her kids are at fault and one night she takes her children to the Rio Grande River to drown them. As they lose their life being drowned La Llorona realizes that she has done wrong and proceeds to drown herself. As she meets her creator, her God tells her that she cannot enter their kingdom until she finds her children and truly understands the severity of her acts. La Llorona comes back down to Earth and every night she weeps “mis hijos (my children)” as she searches for them. If you encounter her she may take your children from you especially if they roam the river alone.

I would like to remind you all that I grew up on the border so this kept me far away from the river which was possibly the goal of this story being told to me at such a young age. The story of La Llorona has gone through changes various times that we don’t really know the actual story or where it originated from. One thing is true though, all of its incarnations have been fear inducing. The story of La Llorona has been translated onto the silver screen before but was done terribly at adapting such a terrifying story. On the contrary, what I watched on Shudder was far from being terrible.

La Llorona (2020) is set in Guatemala as General Enrique Monteverde is tried for genocide after him and his army murdered many of the local indigenous population in the 80’s. At first, Monteverde is tried and found guilty of genocide but because the old man is not in the best of condition he is allowed to stay at his home under a form of house arrest. After losing all but one of his helpers at the home he employs a beautiful indigenous woman with long black hair and a white gown. Once Alma the new housekeeper starts to work for them and various protests happening every day, something starts to feel very strange within the home as the effects of isolation start to settle in.

Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona (2020) is exhilarating, nuanced, and downright incredible. First of all, let me talk about the bare minimum, La Llorona is an indigenous woman and the fact that she is played by an indigenous actress is beautiful to see. Not only is she casted appropriately but her and the various indigenous people in the film talk different dialects of the Mayan language. Such important characteristics that seem to be the bare minimum are never represented in Hollywood. The way that this Guatemalan film incorporates the folk story makes for an incredibly interesting retelling. The modern retelling and commentary of Latin American politics within this horror film is vastly nuanced. Instead of focusing entirely on the folklore of La Llorona, the film uses the story more as a backbone to create the bone chilling atmosphere of the picture. Maria Mercedes Coroy as Alma/La Llorona is incredible and goosebumps inducing. Every deep stare from her feels like it is looking deep into your soul. Everything from the performances, cinematography, and fluid direction makes for quite a picture. La Llorona (2020) is truly a masterful effort from Bustamante and their team of creatives.

This film is one of the best of the year, and I highly recommend you all watch it as soon as possible. Watch La Llorona (2020) on Shudder.

Tenet Review: Don’t Try to Understand it, Feel it

Christopher Nolan’s back at it again, a triumphant return to save or at least help keep cinema progressing in these uncertain times we are living.

CREDIT: WarnerBros

What for me might be his best comes after a myriad of delays and issues through some of the most trying months in recent decades, and he still delivers the cinema experience. The film was a welcome and dearly missed feeling for 2 hours and a half (add on up to half an hour depending on your cinema’s add and trailers). I completely forgot about 2020 and everything that has been happening as of late.

From Nolan’s masterful sound design, the way it blends brilliantly crafted gunshots and other audio effects with Ludwig Göransson’s massive and bo bass-driven score to the way these tease Travis Scott’s “The Plan”-written for the film by Göransson, Scott and WondaGurl (Ebony Naomi Oshunrinde). There are multiple times the film is bringing in enough of the intro to the song to notice without feeling overbearing to the point it feels natural when it plays later.

If you weren’t all-in on John David Washington already, I don’t know what your excuse can be post-Tenet. The man leads this film without any hiccups when it comes to action while going toe to toe with Robert Pattinson and Kenneth Branagh dramatically. His performance builds and maintains chemistry with Elizabeth Debicki and forming one formidably charismatic duo with the aforementioned, Pattinson. If this film dragged or had many issues, this duo could probably mask quite a few, given that it doesn’t have any glaring ones of note, they shine all the brighter. These core four are surrounded quite well with some notable smaller roles where Michael Caine, Clémence Poésy, Himesh Patel, Dimple Kapadia, and Aaron Taylor Johnson all do very well with their screentime.

Tenet is a film that plays with palindromes, metaphors, and contrasting ideas while planting enough seeds throughout, for there always to be something in the background to enjoy upon a rewatch or further inspection, and while Nolan plays with the ideas of inversion the actions scenes involving these are sublime. Even the smaller, more mundane aspects have you walking out of the cinema as if you were the one inverted for at least a few steps. And I don’t know in the end, as a viewer I can’t get over the birds.

We may have no friends at dawn, but if you enjoyed Tenet, you have one in this fellow viewer. Tenet is playing in theaters internationally and will be opening limitedly in the United States on September 2nd.

75 Films From Asia: HAPPY TOGETHER (1997)

Happy Together (1997), is a beautiful and sensual film from Wong Kar-wai that is a special achievement from the incredible director.

CREDIT: Kino International

There is not a lot of filmmakers that I can say that I fell in love with their work just one movie in. Now having watched Chungking Express (1995) and In The Mood For Love (2000), I can say that Wong Kar-wai has definitely made it to one of my favorite directors of all time. Even though those two films are hard to top it does not take away from this heartbreaking but sensual piece of art. Wong Kar-wai once again shows me that there is something so special to the way he crafts his movies. There is a sort enticing but saddening aspect about Happy Together (1997) that pours out of the screen when you watch it.

The film revolves around a turbulent romance between its protagonists, Ho Po-Wing and Lai Yiu-fai as they live in Buenos Aires, Argentina after moving from Hong Kong. It is filled with beautifully stylized love scenes and stunning chemistry between the two actors. You can totally feel the romance between the two of them, but most importantly you can feel the heartbreak both feel not being able to be there for each other. Both of them even though similar in ways are completely different opposites that attract.

The film combats homophobia, sex work, love, loneliness, obsession, and heartbreak on top of more minor themes. Kar-wai never fails to show the ups and downs of their relationship while creating a stylized piece of art. Everything from the music choices to the coloring choices makes the movie as exquisite as it feels. The picture never fails to depict its characteristics while also aiming to create something different from other romance films.

It is not as great as In The Mood For Love (2000) but it is also not a bad film by any means. I am sure that Wong Kar-wai does not even know what it means to make a bad movie. All three of these movies form him feel special, and they are all filled with something to fall in love with throughout its runtime.

Watch Happy Together (1997) on the Criterion Channel. Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.

75 Films From Asia: PSYCHOKINESIS (2018)

Psychokinesis (2018) is a noble and entertaining directorial effort with its various ups and downs.

CREDIT: Next Entertainment World

All the superhero films I am used to watching are from the United States, which are controlled by the two giant brands, Marvel and DC. These films can get a bit stale over time with not much to say beyond the surface of the film. Now, this is not the first film Yeon Sang-ho having watched, Train To Busan (2016). I am even looking forward to his next directorial effort, Peninsula (2020). As you can tell, I went into Psychokinesis (2018) with some form of expectations seeing what this director can do with all his skills in his arsenal.

The film revolves around a bank security guard who gains telekinetic powers by drinking out of a water fountain that was struck by a meteor. He uses his powers to make money at first but then tries to help his estranged daughter when a company wants to take their family business down. Psychokinesis (2018) is a good movie with an interesting plot involving superpowers and class warfare. The film is not perfect by any means but it has a lot of heart in it. The film’s second act lacks structured pacing to it, and some of the characters feel as if they are just there with no motives. Although it is not great there are a lot of characteristics that make it worth finishing like its wonderful cinematography and fight choreography. Once again, the film shows that Yeon Sang-ho understands completely how to handle the camera and set up the atmosphere of the film. The problem of this film mostly lies within the writing of the film but overall it is not the worst or best movie-watching experience I have had.

Watch Psychokinesis (2018) on Netflix. We also reviewed this film on The Nerd Corps so go and check out what we had to say about it! Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.

75 Films From Asia: PERFECT BLUE (1997)

Satoshi Kon crafts a masterpiece of a film that will not just be remembered in anime but as a piece of cinematic art.

CREDIT: Rex Entertainment

Way back when before the pandemic hit on The Nerd Corps, we covered Millennium Actress (2001) from writer/director, Satoshi Kon. If you listened to the episode you know that I did not find that film anywhere close to being great. I thought it was convoluted and very disorganized in its story structure. Since then I had not watched another film from Kon and I was scared to possibly write this man off after just watching this one film (which you should never do).

Well, Perfect Blue (1997) is incredible from start to finish and never stops gripping at you. The film is constructed through the eyes of our protagonist, Mima Kirigoe, as she retires from her Japanese idol group and pursues her career in acting. We see the good and bad sides of this career as she encounters people obsessed with her and willing to cause her harm. Some of those causing her harm are those exact people within the film industry who are supposed to help her. The nuances of the film are so carefully crafted to create a picture that is so within the style of Kon’s framework.

The film deals with various themes such as obsession, voyeurism, and the harassment of young women within a male-dominated industry. Satoshi Kon perfects the blend of fantasy and reality within the film. Along with excellent writing and direction, the film features an incredible score, exquisite sound design, and profoundly beautiful animation that brings these characters to life. I am sure that this will end up in my top ten at the end of this challenge and in my top five anime films of all time.

Perfect Blue is available to stream on Hoopla through your public library or can be rented on all major movie watching platforms. Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.