(Critical) “Infinite Memory”: Indiscreet Record of Degradation

The media premiere of a new feature documentary by national filmmaker Maite Alberdi coincides with her difficult choice to represent the local audiovisual industry at the upcoming Goya Awards in the Best Ibero-American Film category.

TO Enrique Morales Lastra

Published 24.8.2023

D.After Pablo Larraín Matte, director Maite Alberdi Soto (1983) is the Chilean director with the most focus on marketing and advertising on major media platforms. His films are promoted under a powerful propaganda bombardment in their favor, which translates into the effective expectations that exist around his audiovisual works among a wide range of national audiences.

For example, with the cover call printed in the Wednesday, August 23rd issue: Mercury gave him his enthusiastic support.

This communicative context conditions and makes it almost impossible to carry out an independent critical function in relation to Alberdi’s feature films to identify some shortcomings or weaknesses, both artistic and technical, in his productions.

His work then appears and lands on the billboards of local theaters with an aura of masterpieces, in this case feature documentaries destined for glory and excellence, awarded prizes at the great international film industry festivals.

Having made the scope, the first thing we need to specify is that endless memory (2023) is perhaps the weakest film that we have seen from Maite Alberdi in her entire prolific creative career, and in which the narrative and dramatic strategy that appeals to the most basic and primary sentimentality of people becomes most obvious. loans.

Really, endless memory is a documentary feature film inspired by the final years of the Chilean journalist Augusto Gongora Labbe (1952–2023), diagnosed with degenerative Alzheimer’s disease and shown through a kind of cheeky audiovisual magazine, in relation to his physical and mental deterioration. , affectively and, ultimately, on his ability as a social subject.

Although Alberdi Soto has all the “exemptions” in the case granted by the deceased and main defendant, as well as his ex-wife, actress Paulina Urrutia, the protocol borders on rudeness in terms of demonstrating the helpless seclusion of a distinguished interlocutor and reporter until he became an old man, unable to walk and recognize neither himself nor his wife.

There will be no more sorrows, no more oblivion

Is this work really a feature documentary with a clear and coherent narrative structure, or, otherwise, was a set of episodes running around in the editing room to partly show Gongora’s bitter decline during the nine years since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease ( 2014) until the sad moment of his death (2023)?

This narrative effort is never revealed, except that Gongora finds herself at the absolute mercy of the care his partner, the former culture minister of the former president’s first government, Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), could provide.

Thus, the public interest that may arise from this little-known report depends firstly on Urrutia’s knowledge as a high-ranking government official, and then on Gongora’s visible work as a journalist opposed to the civil and military regime led by Augusto. Pinochet, in the 1980s; and later, as a result of his belonging to the cultural elite of the defunct Concertacion, and also as an outstanding professional, which he played and had (he was editor) on the National Television of Chile from 1990 to early 2010.

So Alberdi’s documentary shows meager technical and cinematic value (in terms of shots, shots, angles used, in short) and also how out of focus the audiovisual recordings that Urrutia must have recorded, due to the fact that The director was unable to attend both at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Without a coherent narrative structure, it highlights the unusual portrayal of Gongora as a lonely patient, friendless, with little contact with his two children (they only appear in archival images and only once in a scene recorded at the same time), and despite his disturbed consciousness and clarity of mind, he entered the shadow of senile dementia spurred on by Alzheimer’s disease.

Then this endless memory a documentary about this disease, the number of diagnoses of which among Chileans is growing every day? Neither, if we take into account the non-existent intervention of the medical staff in the footage and that the continuity of the cut seems to focus on Gongora’s blurry disappearance, as opposed to the selfless care provided by his wife.

Moments of anxiety on her part, although we assume they existed, are not shown in the film, giving way to a romantic idealization of this connection, typical of a marriage that continues together despite such difficult and terrible adversities, whatever they may be. from Alzheimer’s disease.

The absence of difficult moments in Gongora’s relationship with Urrutia, which should have happened, is nevertheless omitted, which emphasizes a discursive strategy that distances endless memory characteristics of a documentary feature film becoming a story (we insist omitted in the montage) typical of a love story that represents the unconditional devotion of those who, in the dynamics of this connection, remain healthy and attached to sensual reality (considers it).

The closest thing to conflict between the two members of this marriage comes when Gongora ends up completely ignoring the woman with whom he shares a common home and days 23 years ago (they met in 1997, they became a couple in 1999). and accepted civil and contractual obligations in 2016).

show intimacy

Likewise, it is worth questioning the audiovisual and, of course, the witness value of a story whose outcome is known in advance, in the style of a recording in which the two observed beings turn around as if the camera is not in front of them, despite the fact that there is one, and Urrutia, who is also an actress by profession, is especially aware of this.

Alberdi’s aesthetic decisions, meanwhile, are reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the films of the Franco-Argentine director Gaspar Noe, when they hit the national billboard at the beginning of this century, I mean one against alland especially for irreversiblearrived in Chile in early August 2003.

Is it necessary to show realistic details of wild urban rape in order to understand the deplorable physical state in which Monica Belucci’s heroine finds herself, or is it just a reward doomed to the wrath of censors and the pain of potential viewers? ?

The same can be asked about whether it was necessary to undress Gongora (the scene shows him having difficulty showering without moving on) to understand the severity of his illness, rather than resuscitating him, as Raul Ruiz says in an interview. that Augusto himself treats the maestro at the favorite restaurant Normandie in Providencia, which Alberdi used as archival material in his film, and explains the aesthetic emotions that brought him closer to devoting himself to cinematic art, that sober reporter who plays the main role endless memory.

Ability to handle Habermasiana or not, in order to perceive the reality hidden from us, we thank Maite Alberdi for not revealing the author of the programs Film Video And hour 25 , in even worse physical conditions, in this whirlpool of degradation that becomes vast and morally repetitive over the nearly 90 minutes of filming.

Boredom is not even “ethical,” a word foreign to any audiovisual rhetoric that pursues vulnerability at its boiling point, at the center of its attention.

But watching a respected journalist – the most versatile in the media, along with Christian Warnken, in the complex format of a television cultural interview while he was active – in such a hackneyed manner, in addition to upsetting us, calls into question the true usefulness of a gratuitous strategy cinematic storytelling, designed to discuss or reflect with artistic sincerity about “love” (the dramatic “shield” of this film), that no deathwhen we all, for better or worse, reach that painful end.

Advances with public money

endless memory, In addition, after a recent internal industry election, it has been selected by the Chilean Film Academy to compete on behalf of the local film industry in the Best Ibero-American Film category of the upcoming Goya 2024 Awards, which will be decided during next February at a ceremony , which will be held in the Spanish city of Valladolid.

This promotion and international distribution campaign will be financed mainly by public funds of millionaires, which are directly allocated by the state to the aforementioned trade union group, through the implementation of an agreement signed between the Chilean Film Academy and the Ministry of Culture and Arts. and “Heritage”, dating from the middle of the second government of Sebastián Piñera.



Outstanding Image: endless memory (2023).

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