Undertow

 

Undertow

[original title: Contracorriente]

Written & Directed by Javier Fuentes-Léon

2009


Cast:

Cristian Mercado

Tatiana Astengo

Manolo Cardona

José Chacaltana

Cindy Diaz


Studio:

Theatrical: Dynamo Producciones, Elcalvo Films, La Cinéfacture & Neue Cameo Film

Video: Wolfe Video


Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 21.98 GB

Feature Size: 17.4 GB

Runtime: 102 minutes

Chapters: 9


Audio:

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles:

English SDH


Extras:

• A Look Inside” with Writer/Director Fuentes-Léon (17:45)

• Interview with Writer/Director Fuentes-Léon (11:10)

• Interview with Actor Cristian Mercado (5:25)

• Interview with Tatiano Astengo (5:25)

• Behind the Scenes

• Deleted Scenes (23:10)

• Trailer in HD for 8: The Mormon Proposition


Presentation:

Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Street Date: June 1, 2011



About Wolfe Video:

If you came across this video previously unaware of Wolfe Video and their mission, you would soon find yourself out of the closet before the feature film begins, as trailers that focus on GLTB, such as “8: The Mormon Proposition” and “A Marine Story” are placed front and center.  Wolfe Video presents 2010 Sundance winner and Peru’s Academy Award entry for the Best Foreign Language Film.


The Movie: 8

A modern folk fable, Undertow [Contracorriente] is the often agonizing story of a man coming to terms with his homosexuality - or, as is the case with many such men, trying not to come to terms.  In a small Peruvian fishing village (the movie is filmed in Cabo Blanco), Miguel (Bolivian actor, Cristian Mercado, whom you might have seen in Steven Soderbergh’s “Che”) is expecting his first child with his wife Mariela (Peruvian actress, Tatiana Astengo ). The village is a tight and strongly religious community that has just witnessed the last rites for one of Miguel’s cousins that ends with a burial at sea.  It is an intimate and affecting scene that includes the washing and dressing of the corpse.


     


It is here that these macho men can reveal to each other their vulnerability to pain and sorrow and to express their love for each other without the aid of alcohol.  But sex is quite another matter. Sex is designated by the community and their religious teachings as the business of what goes on between men and women, married or not.  Certainly not between men.


Enter Santiago (the charismatic Columbian actor, Manolo Cardona).  Santiago has come to the village to paint.  He lives by himself at some distance from the village proper.  When he comes upon the villagers it is usually with camera in hand, which they feel as intrusive.  They don’t see what becomes of his photographs: studies for his paintings, and he doesn’t show them.  Santiago is pleasant, but understandably distant.  And he is beautiful, a fact which, while hardly anyone comments on it directly - certainly not the men - escapes no one’s attention, nor their derision.  It is assumed that Santiago is not a “man.”


     


It is no wonder, then, that the love affair between Santiago and Miguel is kept secret - not only from the villagers, but from Miguel.  Aye, there’s the rub - for Miguel maintains that their sex is not sex, that their love is not love - to say nothing of what it may imply about Miguel’s love for his wife - and there is no question that he loves her and that his delight in the coming of his son is not some abreaction to his own closeted homosexuality.


So far, this story is not that much unlike others we know.  But what makes writer/director Javier Fuentes-Léon’s movie so special and uniquely engaging is that he kills off Santiago early on in his movie, only to have his corporealized ghost visit Miguel until his dead body can be found and properly and lovingly disposed of.


     


Miguel, for his part, finds this to be the ideal solution.  He can continue his love affair with Santiago pretty much in the open, since no one else can see or hear him.  Meanwhile, Santiago’s corpse remains locked in the sea, unsanctified, and Miguel’s heart slowly splits.


There is a delicate amateurish feeling to just about everything connected with this film, and this is to its credit; nonetheless, the main characters are unstereotypical and complex.  We are voyeurs who happen upon this village, like Miguel’s ghost. We feel their embarrassment and shame, their love and anger.


     


Image: 6/7

Contracorriente was shot in Super 16 mm, then blown up to 35 mm for theatrical distribution.  It would appear that it is from this source, rather than the 16 mm negative that Wolfe video’s Blu-ray transfer comes.  I only say this because the image is less good than the BBC Blu-ray of their Pride and Prejudice TV series which was mastered for the Super 16 mmm source. Either way, the image for Undertow, while reasonably sharp with natural color, is generally flat, thin, grainy and often noisy.  The scenes at or near the beach or at sea are the most problematic, and anything or group of people photographed at a distance tends to suffer from a lack of definition.


In the best of cases, 16 mm sources are a bit dicey for large screen front projection, even in high definition.  Still, I suspect that most people will not be especially bothered by the picture quality if viewed at 60 inches or less.  In most other respects the image does not suffer from such transfer issues as edge enhancement.


Since it is permanent part of the image, I should mention that Wolfe Video has opted for forced subtitles, as if only English-limited speakers will watch their movie.  Tsk tsk.


     


Audio & Music: 6/8

While the dialogue and effects are clear enough in either of the two Dolby Digital tracks, Wolfe Video offers no lossless option.  They do, however, provide the alternative of the original 2.0 stereo mix to the default - and less dynamic - 5.1 remix.  A small but amusing error in the menus is its listing the two audio tracks as “English” instead of Spanish.  In any case there is no English dub.


Extras: 7

Most of the extra features are in standard definition, variously anamorphic 16x9 or 4:3 with letterboxed clips from the movie where deemed fitting.  The most comprehensive is the aptly titled “A Look Inside” (in HD, by the way) where writer/director Fuentes-Léon guides us through his personal journey to make this film.  He discusses its origins in an assignment while in film school, his own coming out, the selection of his cast, the filming location and the fundamental themes of the movie.  Don’t miss the interviews with the two leads as they talk about how they are similar to or very different form their characters, especially the engaging, thoughtful and (surprisingly) stunning Tatiana Astengo.


     


Recommendation: 7

Despite the somewhat dodgy image, burned in subtitles and lack of a lossless audio track, the movie itself is very much worth seeing.  I advise a rental before purchase to see if the technical issues are of sufficient bother.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

May 15, 2011


Additional screencaps:


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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