2008 // Mexico // Fernando Eimbcke // November 14, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
In recent years, Latin American auteurs have apparently been paying attention to Asian film-makers such as Zhang Ke Jia and Tsai Ming-Liang, tossing out those directors' affection for surrealism, and delivering a new Spanish-language Cinema of Patience (to coin a term), a mode exemplified by challenging works such as The Minder and Los Muertos. With its static camera work, lengthy shots, and cut-to-black punctuation, Lake Tahoe fits comfortably within this current. It goes without saying that Eimbcke's deliberate and often slyly funny film, which chronicles twenty-four hours in the life of a Yucatan youth, is not for everyone. The remove that Eimbcke establishes from his subject lends Lake Tahoe the tone of an uneventful slice-of-life snapshot, but a moment's consideration reveals that for Juan (Diego Cataño), this single day is remarkably pivotal. He may be a bit of a cipher, but, the film's style notwithstanding, his story is an identifiable mini-odyssey about indignities, opportunities, and reversals. The result feels a bit slight, but Eimbcke admirably maintains a mood that is both biting and yet warm-hearted. Lake Tahoe's aesthetic might be stripped-down Weerasethakul, but its worldview is distinctly Coen, transplanted with emotional authority to a dusty Mexican town.