Zama ★★★★

St. Louis International Film Festival Screening #6

Jacques Tati and Luis Buñuel direct Samuel Beckett's 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God'.

I'm still wrestling with this film, which is by turns surreal, droll, bleak, nasty, and confounding. *Lots* of parallels to Jim Jarmusch's 'Dead Man', including an anti-climactic Stygian voyage in a canoe.

Undeniably, every frame of this film is breathtaking and masterfully assembled, but not in the self-consciously fussy way of, say, Wes Anderson or Stanley Kubrick. Its aesthetic is half grimy realism and half syncretic cult fever-dream. The whole thing is like the cinematic equivalent of a Renaissance artwork -- as visually dense as a Pieter Bruegel painting, using deep focus and blocking the way that the 16th-century artist employed a bird's-eye perspective and a panoramic scale.

I haven't sorted out yet what the hell Martel is trying to say vis-a-vis colonialism, masculinity, and existential absurdity, but this is easily one of the most visually complex films of the year.