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Blogging from San Sebastian September 17-25, 2021

Coverage Recap of 61st edition. Photo gallery 2013 Recap of 63rd edition, video I Recap of 64th edition, video I Recap of 65th edition, video / Recap of 66th edition /Recap of 68th edition, video



El Cuarto de Leo at San Sebastian 2009

When you take any sort of writing class, one of the first things you learn is narrative structure: not just beginning, middle, end, but the specific way that stories need to be formed in order to seem as though they're moving forward. The more you study it, the more it haunts you, until half the time you're watching movies, you start pointing out specific points in time that serve a purpose to move the story forward. While I understand narrative structure and why it's important, I find a certain sort of sanctuary in movies that are more of a “slice of life” of a character, a story that perhaps doesn't follow the strict guidelines of narrative structure as closely as we're told you have to, a story that allows me to look past the skeleton-like narrative structure I know so well to actually understand the characters.

El Cuarto de Leo is one of these films: it doesn't appeal to everyone—the friend I saw it with didn't particularly like it—but I love films like this: they're slow at times, yes, but they're worth it. El Cuarto de Leo is a film out of Uruguay from director Enrique Buchichio. It follows a young man's search for his sexuality as a parallel story follows a young woman's descent into depression. These two people knew one another once and have started to be friends, but neither one is terribly involved in the other's problems.

What I like about a film like this is that we are not constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop or for the problem to be resolved: this film mirrors itself on real life, on the way that actual days and actual events move forward. Some of them are resolved, others are not. Some become unimportant, others suddenly become very important. Characters enter and leave without fanfare or door-slamming. Unlike with traditional narrative structure, there is really no way of telling how a film like this will end, and I find it refreshing.

This is mirrored in the style in which the movie is filmed: many of the scenes have a hand-held feel to them—there is an organicness to the cinematography that makes the film seem all the more true and real. Even some of the scene cuts are superfluous or unnatural, which draws attention to the fact that we, the viewer, are encroaching on the life of this person.

In many of these films, the person we follow is selfish: it is almost as though the reason that the film does not progress beyond this “slice of life” is because the main character wants the entire film to be focused on him. On the contrary, Leo in this film is not selfish, but surprisingly sweet. He does not want to disappoint, and it is because of this that he has had so much trouble finding himself. Watching as he tries to satisfy the needs of everyone around him as well as finally come to terms with his own is what makes this film a pleasure to watch.

-Emily Monaco

Fifth Row, Left Side


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About SanSebastian

Barreda de Biurrun Inés

Blogging from the 69th San Sebastian Film Festival
Reporting by Inés Barreda de Biurrun and Bruno Chatelin.

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