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Sonambula, La
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by Greg Muskewitz

"The best of the fest."
4 stars

My favorite film at the festival, of all types of movies, was the Argentinean sci-fi thriller "La SonAmbula."

I am by no means fluent in Spanish, so I made a point to stick with movies that were subtitled, and the program listed this one, in its two showings during the festival, as being subtitled. However, ten minutes into the film when there was no sight of subtitles kicking in at any time soon, I checked to see what was up. As it turned out, it was intended to have subtitles, but the print had only been flown in that afternoon from France, not allowing them to check it. Regardless, the premise sounded interesting enough, so I stayed with it. Set in Buenos Aires in 2010, an experimental "ray" hits thousands of denizens throughout the city, wiping out their memory. Identifiable by an "infected" blotch-like birthmark, those people affected by it were given new memories and lives. One of those affected, Eva (the gorgeous Sofia Viruboff) is having visions and dreams spawned by the resistance against the government's faux paus, and so they keep an eye on her and the recrudesce of her memory. With the help of a roguish fighter (Eusebio Poncela), they seek to find what they're after. Almost in a "Pleasantville"-like visual style, the present is told in a digital video shot black-and-white (sometimes bordering on a monochromatic blue), while the past or visions are seen in beautifully saturated color. "La SonAmbula" is very pastiche of many sci-fi movies like "Brazil," "Metropolis," "Dark City," "The Matrix," "eXistenZ" and "The Terminator." For the most part, this uses the aforementioned films best aspects and assembles them intriguingly and with a dazzling, stylish usage. The camera work, by Josť Luis GarcIa is smooth and luscious, and the script by FabiAn Bielinsky, Ricardo Piglia and Fernando Spiner (also the director) is refined and revised to make it their own. The not-to-distant future is not all that different --outside of the hip, chic clothing and technology. I can only say that I liked "La SonAmbula" so much to a point, because my comprehension of everything going on only went so far. However, after talking with a couple of my friends the next day who had seen it as well, the movie purposely left a bit of overall confusion, so there is no complete understanding no matter how you look at it. Fernando Spiner's film has a lot of energy and style, without overdoing any of it. But of all the films that it takes after, it is most resembles "The Terminator," especially the way it ended. Good digital effects, good pace, and a overall unique film coming from Argentina. (Science fiction doesn't seem like something so common or everyday from Latino cinema.) This is one, have I the chance to see again with subtitles, that I would eagerly watch again.

(Released in 1998 in Argentina, it is listed as being known in the U.S. as "Sleepwalker," though I have never heard of that or seen it available on video.)

Final Verdict: B+.

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originally posted: 03/18/01 19:42:35
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