Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sidewalls (2011)

5/5* Available on Netflix.

Sidewalls is an Argentinean film about two people trying to cope with life and find love in the city of Buenos Aires.  Let me say it right from the start, I really liked this film a lot.  It reminds me a little of Lost in Translation (one of my favorite films of all time), and it seems to have a similar theme of needing someone with common ground to keep you from feeling overwhelmed in a large city.  The style of the film, and the cinematography is beautiful as well and reminds me a bit of Amelie (minus the green color tone).  I could scarcely give a film higher praise than to compare it to two films such as Lost in Translation and Amelie.

One reason I like film so much is that I think it can be interesting to see how other people live. Film is a window into other people's lives, it can allow us to meet people we never would have, visit places we may never go, and if we can find something we can relate to, that makes the whole journey worth it.

The film begins with lots of shots of the city itself, looking at the various architecture.  I liked this film partly because it's one of those films where the city it takes place in is also an important character in the film (think Woody Allen's films in New York, or Wong Kar Wai's films in Hong Kong).

The beginning is very much like a french new wave film with a character speaking to us, the audience, and showing the location in which it is set. As we look at the buildings a voice-over begins, a necessary introduction to the film:
"Buenos Aires is growing uncontrollably and imperfectly. An overpopulated city in a deserted country. A city in which thousands of buildings rise into the sky arbitrarily. Next to a tall one, a short one; next to a rational one, an irrational one. Next to a French one, one with no style at all. These irregularities probably reflect us perfectly. Aesthetic and ethical irregularities. These buildings, which adhere to no logic, represent bad planning. Just like our lives: we have no idea how we want them to be."
As the voice-over talks about people and the illnesses we suffer from, we see examples of buildings that represent those things.  I think this is such an interesting metaphor. This sequence shows the varied architecture of Buenos Aires and we see how one style of building is either right next to, or attached to a building of a very different style.  It's the same with humans, we are all different and unique and have our own styles.  There is more to this opening dialogue that is worth mentioning, in fact it has so much to say and so many ideas packed into it that as soon as the sequence had played out I had to rewind it and watch it again. However for the sake of time, I'll let you watch it yourself.

We eventually meet the main characters Martin (Javier Drolas) and Mariana (Pilar Lopez de Ayala). They are both getting over breaks ups, and both suffer from many phobias.  They are essentially afraid of the city they live in and it's many people, and Mariana is ironically afraid of small spaces too.  They both go on dates with other people, but nothing works out.  Although they've never met, it doesn't take long for us to realize that they are perfect for each other.

Like any good piece of writing or film, there are a lot of ideas presented here, from the metaphor of the architecture to the simple idea that even in a big city with people everywhere you look, ironically, a person can still feel lost and lonely.  There is another interesting thought talked about in the film, about how cell phones were meant to keep us connected at all times (as we know texting has separated us in a different sort of way), but sadly a side effect to them is that text messaging has essentially reduced our languages to a series of guttural sounds and nonsensical letter combinations.

Mariana finds she still has an old Where's Waldo book in her apartment, and while she has found Waldo in every other scene in the book (like the beach, and whatnot) she has never been able to find him in the city.  This, of course, is the metaphor for true love. She hasn't found him yet, but, on the bright side at least she knows he's in the city and not at the beach.  It's another interesting metaphor that searching for one person in a big city can be a little like trying to find Waldo, but sadly it's harder in real life, because rarely does the person we're looking for dress in a manner that stands out the way Waldo does, or maybe that's not always true...

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