‘El Gran Movimiento’ Review: Subsistence and the City

in the first shot of “El Gran Movimiento” In the second film by Bolivian director Quiro Russo, who also wrote the script, the camera zooms in from above La Paz to a half-standing building. As the image gets closer to the ground, the underlying sounds (traffic, construction, and possibly voices) get louder. Throughout the opening montage, Russo peers at the city through a familiar lens, investigating the bustling wires of aerial cable cars and contemplating cars and people reflected in the glass.

But ‘El Gran Movimiento’ is not simply an urban symphony. Shot in 16mm, this enigmatic and experimental film, shot in 16mm and blending elements of non-fiction and performance, can be forgiven for assuming that long stretches consist of verité documentaries. Deploy in a mode where you can’t. That much of it is carefully staged and composed is certainly evident in two thirds, when the main subject suddenly engages in a synth-score dance sequence.

An oblique plot not easily understood from the film itself involves Elder (Julio César Ticona), a member of a group of miners who walked seven days to La Paz to find work. He and his friends have a job hauling produce, but the elder has a bad cough. Apart from that, for a while, Russo tracks down Max (Max Bautista Uchasala), a deranged man who lives in the woods and practices folk remedies for elder-like problems.

“El Gran Movimiento” is clearly designed as an intuitive experience, and frustration is to be expected. Russo is more concerned with discovering the surreal reality than with stories. But as a spell exercise, “El Gran Movimiento” is delightfully disorienting.

El Gran Movimiento
Unrated. Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. at the theater.

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