2008 // Argentina // Lisandro Alonso // November 21, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
There are not many film-makers that simultaneously demand the utmost patience and attentiveness from their audience and also hew to scrupulous realism in their work. This unusual pairing of qualities is what defines the downright vexing films of Argentine director Lisandro Alonso, who has made four features that exemplify the term "acquired taste." His latest is Liverpool, which trades the rain forests of Los Muertos for dreary, snowbound Tierra del Fuego. Structurally and thematically, however, this new film is close kin to his 2004 feature, as both train their gaze on a man on a familial quest. Here the protagonist is the lanky, inscrutable Farrel (Juan Fernández), a cargo ship worker who journeys inland to find his ailing mother. The delicacy of Alonso's observational power is what makes Liverpool such a unusual species of film, but it unfortunately suffers from a suffocating emotional inertness. Most filmgoers will likely find Alonso's style tedious, if not excruciating, principally due to his seemingly emphatic lingering on banalities. In fact, Liverpool never emphasizes; it only invites observation. It is a grimy, ragged, uncompromising work, but so taxing that only the most disciplined cinephile would dare tackle it more than once.