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Film review: 'Neruda'

'Neruda' is a deliciously ambiguous cat-and-mouse political caper.

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  • | 12:30 p.m. February 22, 2017
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The film "Neruda" is a cryptic cat-and-mouse political caper. It will leave you scratching your head as to whether it's fact or fiction, while based on an actual historical figure. 

Chilean director Pablo Larrain is known for surprise endings, and "Neruda" is not an exception. Juggling politics and poetry, it tells the story of Chilean Senator Pablo Neruda's (Luis Gnecco) denunciation of President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla in 1948, which forced him into hiding. Impeached and on the run with his doting wife (Mercedes Moran), Neruda is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Oscar Peluchoneau (Gael Garcia Bernal). But he's always one step ahead of the self-assured Latin gumshoe. 


As Neruda is writing his epic collection of poems, "Canto General," Oscar is narrating his disappointing manhunt. Neruta continues to give him the slip, and Oscar begins to suspect that the poet is using him as a "supporting actor" in his musings. It becomes a game of who's created whom, as the plot thickens.

Larrain ("No," "The Club" and "Jackie") forges an intimate relationship between the hunter and the hunted while never having met one another. While obviously there's a lot of poetic license going in "Neruda," it really doesn't matter. The film plays out as a book being written with characters who are inherently flawed. Gael Garcia Bernal and Luis Gnecco are perfectly cast as the odd couple.

Dramatic scoring serves as a character in itself, almost taking center stage. But at times, the story line lacks that rich intensity that the music delivers. Audiences may have to wade through the first half of "Neruda" but will be swept up in its deliciously ambiguous and visually captivating conclusion. 


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