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  • Canícula | Review

    LA Film Fest 2012

    By | June 24, 2012

    Director: José Álvarez

    Essentially an ethnographic survey of the lives and rituals of the Indians of the Totonac village of Veracruz, Canícula features some stunning images that rival Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi; but for the most part, Jose Álvarez’s film seems quite unsure of what exactly it really is. Whereas Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi are merely acid-drenched, audiovisual masterpieces, Canícula seems to want to tell a story. The problem is that Canícula lacks any resemblance of a narrative; instead, Canícula consists of a bunch of seemingly unrelated footage that Álvarez shot while in Veracruz.

    Canícula becomes utterly transfixing whenever Álvarez focuses on Veracruz’s flying men, and the young boys training to become flying men. Unfortunately, Álvarez pairs this footage with indigenous people baking and making pottery in Veracruz — and he feels the inexplicable need to forcibly establish parallels between the creation of baked goods and pottery. Yes, I get it, the making of tortillas resembles the preparation of pottery clay…

    Canícula is essentially two separate films, one that is quite interesting and one that feels incredibly forced. So, let’s forget about the baking and the pottery-making and focus on the flying men. The film opens with a pole suspended high above the tree tops of Veracruz. The pole sways precariously as four men climb up and prepare to take flight. One can only wonder how many men have died while participating in this long-standing tradition. This ethnographic study of the flying men is utterly mesmerizing, if only Álvarez’s film chose to focus solely upon them…

    Paired with Martín Delgado’s score, the visuals of Canícula are hypnotic; but again, the film works best when dealing with the flying men of Veracruz. Personally, I would have preferred for this film to be a 20 minute short film, than a forcibly lengthened 65 minute feature; I also do not see how there could not be 60+ minutes of worthwhile footage of the flying men of Veracruz. Heck, I could watch them for multiple hours upon end…

    Rating: 6/10

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