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El Sol
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by Jay Seaver

"Average Animated Argentine Apocalypse."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If you had to sum "El Sol" up in one phrase, "screw it, might as well!" probably describes it both inside and out. The filmmakers aren't feeling any particular need to conform to standards of logic or good taste, and the characters are just as free from caring about civility and decorum. This gets it some points for originality, even if it's mostly a mess.

It's been a few years since the bombs fell, and suffice it to say that the mood of no person in Argentina has improved - they're still the same testy lot they were, to hear the narrator tell it, before the apocalypse. "Once" (voice of Jorge Sesán) is a scout of sorts, traveling with pretty junkie Checo (Sofía Gala) to find caches of supplies. This trip, they've stumbled upon the mother lode - the still functioning settlement of Poblar. Of course, that place has problems of its own, such as sending out sacrifices to the Bonitos, a group of cannibal environmentalists.

And then, of course, things get weirder and meaner. El Sol often seems to be South Park-inspired in its stream-of-consciousness animated filmmaking: Crude in both its animation style and sense of humor, very episodic, and having a bone to pick with everybody, regardless of politics, age, class, etc. It's not so much an angry film as a ticked-off one, the sort that growls about how everything sucks but doesn't have anything much more specific or insightful to add to that. Thankfully, "Once" and the other protagonists are fair game, with the film getting just as much mileage from them being selfish, short-sighted jerks as with taking down anybody they encounter.

And there are more than enough jerks of one stripe or another out there that the filmmakers have ample material even before getting into the special strangeness of a post-apocalyptic world. They throw bits out there at a rapid-enough clip that the jokes that aren't funny and the weirdness that isn't cool doesn't strangle the rest. The art and animation are very basic, but get the job done, actually giving the movie an appropriately punk rock feel. On the other hand, the scattered, whatever-we-feel-like approach tends to hurt it on the writing side, and not just because for every moment of pure inspiration like an entire scene done by the same voice actor because (as the filmmakers tell us in an aside) the guy didn't understand how the process worked and his reading the whole page struck them as funny, there are two bits that didn't work. The movie stops and then goes in a different direction several times, with what was slapstick or wisecracks suddenly having lasting consequences when done again ten minutes later. It makes for one of those movies with a muted ending, because it's only been heading in that direction for ten minutes rather than the whole time.

(Possible caveat: There was a technical glitch during the credits at this screening, with the sound playing through while the picture and subtitles froze. The quick bits we heard may well have tied everything together or at least boosted the movie's average.)

So the movie's all over the place, though such a frequently anarchic project is seldom going to be anything else. Hopefully its young filmmakers will figure out how to hone and target their mean streak before their next go-round, whatever that may be.

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originally posted: 08/04/11 03:15:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

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