The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THE GREAT MOVEMENT | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THE GREAT MOVEMENT

the great movement review
A young miner battling for worker's rights enlists the aid of a witch doctor when he succumbs to a mystery ailment.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Kiro Russo

Starring: Julio Cezar Ticona, Francisa Arce De Aro, Max Bautista Uchasara, Israel Hurtado, Gustavo Milán, Ricardo Aguilera

the great movement poster

Is it me or is cinema, and films in general, getting a bit, well, boring and safe? Various industry Cassandras (Richard Rushfield, my favourite gay uncle Bret Easton Ellis) are heralding the death of cinema as we know it, basing their doomy prognoses on the advent of streaming (which, according to my daily mailshot from Finimize, may similarly be heading into a ‘bear market’ - yikes) along with the detrimental impact of various lockdowns. And aside from these injurious practical factors, there is the content itself... Repeated IPs, franchising, remakes: watching trailer reels today has a crushing over familiarity, and even the ensuing Twitter discourse has a rinse/repeat insularity. It’s hard to get excited about the medium in the way we used to. As I write, it is the Academy Awards weekend, and while us lot will comment and riff and share thoughts, the idea of this preening charade having any impact on the wider public is unimaginable: who cares? Why should they?

the great movement review

The silver lining to this ennui, though, is the thrill one receives when happening upon something which is highly distinct and actually, proper good. Case in point, the joy involved in watching a screener of The Great Movement, Kiro Russo’s undefinable movie concerning proletarian life in Bolivia, and laughing along in wonder at the surprises and marvels within. A master storyteller, Russo’s film opens in a long shot of El Paz; sun worn and unbearably urban, a looming monster of glass, steel and brick work. Non-diegetic sounds of the angry city - cars, building work, concrete smashing - fill the soundtrack as we zoom in (god, I love the big dick energy of a zoom) to our main characters, a disparate and rumpled bunch of miners who are poor, caught up in a labour dispute and suffering from the vicissitudes of the city’s unyielding societal structures.

Russo’s filmmaking is so animated and peculiar that the mind leaps for apt comparisons. Here’s one: in high praise, the shots of the city, the perfect immersion, the boots on the ground sense of ‘being there’, reminded me of the wonderful NYC photography of Larry Cohen. Here, La Paz is a city captured in full dusty, vivid motion. It’s not just what Russo shoots, it’s how he films it, too. He has a magpie eye for locating the third dimensions of a place that make it so substantively tangible. Thus, we are alongside the miners knocking about in town, arguing with a boss, and in one marvellously held static shot, having an impromptu boogie in a bar. This established verisimilitude anchors the film as the loose narrative develops: our main character Elder (played by Julio César Ticona, in a role apparently repeated from one of Russo’s earlier films) has an ailment, for which he seeks out the services of a witch doctor.

the great movement review

In this concise film’s second half, the narrative opens up into a pagan panorama of occult imagery and sumptuous vistas of deep green and wild nature: you can feel your lungs expanding with the powerfully placebo effect. Yes, the contrast between primal nature and circumscribed municipality is hardly a new observation, but the way in which Russo relates his themes is entirely fresh and vital. This is a film where every frame is reconsidered for ultimate photographic impact. And as The Great Movement progresses, so does Russo’s visual ambition, entering into the realms of perfectly portioned out magic realism. For example, there is a scene where the doldrum market women, who we have only previously witnessed selling the various produce which their male counterparts have harvested, randomly break into a proper '80s style choreographed dance routine - back lit alleys, dry ice - that had me grinning in utter pleasure.

the great movement review

Eventually, however, visual dynamics and narrative playfulness is not enough for Russo, and thus (inspiring another comparison, this time to Švankmajer) the editing pushes moments together in a clumsy rush, the frames are cramped on top of one another and begin to splinter, as if the filmmaker is in frustration at the fundamental limits of the medium itself. It is breath-taking and feels almost dangerous (it would be irresponsible to wonder what watching The Great Movement in an ‘altered state’ may feel like, with the stifling hyper-reality of the everyday city in turn colourfully redeemed by flowing, psychedelic spaces...). All this and a lovely white wolf, too.

The Great Movement is in UK cinemas and VOD from April 15th.

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