Sunday, March 18, 2012

Matt Piedmont: Casa de mi Padre

Will Ferrell, Genesis Rodriguez, Casa de mi Padre, Pantelion Films, 2012.

Igniting a dynamite blast of schlocky cinema past, Matt Piedmont's remarkable feature directing debut, Casa de mi Padre, is instantly obsessable. Drenched in nostalgically saturated color tones and structured as a 1970s Mexican drive-in flick, we are overcome by delight at the complexities of its visuals, plot, and humor. Screenwriter Andrew Steele culls elements from telenovelas, old Ranchera musicals, Shakespeare, and Polanski's Chinatown for a delirious action-comedy-melodrama.

Taking off where Rodriguez and Tarantino left off, Piedmont, Steele, and company incite a cinematic garbage free for all which is a true tour de force.

Will Ferrell is a bizarre casting choice, but that is the point. As our hero, Armando, he is steely, old fashioned leading man material, yet also cuttingly tongue in cheek. His command of the Spanish language, as well as his grasp of the Latin lover look, qualify this as one of his best performances. Lately, he has shown insight in his choice of projects. Stranger than Fiction and Everything Must Go were both imaginative, deeply felt performances. Here he tackles the ghost of cinemas past.

Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, those jovial, gifted Mexican leading men, both have fun and are brilliant, as Armando's shady brother and the local drug lord, respectively. Pedro Armendariz, Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Efren Ramirez, and Adrian Martinez all lend colorful support. This artificial slice of cinematic Mexico comes alive on the driver's side.

DP Ramsey Nickell gorgeously recreates the bleeding heart of 70s grindhouse cinema. Editor David Trachtenberg fearlessly reconstructs the flow and feel of low-budget celluloid. Composers Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau construct a sound field of nostalgia. The entire team works at full capacity to achieve the cinephiliac fever dream we have here. Drawing attention to itself as a work of complete artifice, as a movie, we the receptive audience are brought to a collective state of Brechtian ecstasy.

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