El Violin (NC)

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The Independent Culture

Francisco Vargas's first feature, shown at Cannes two years ago, is a haunting beauty, a story of guerrilla resistance in Mexico that slowly gathers the force of myth. A remote village is seized by the military, who torture certain campesinos in order to discover the whereabouts of an ammunition cache. A humble musician, Genaro (Gerardo Taracena), tries to reach his kidnapped wife and child, while his aged father Don Plutarco (Angel Tavira), entertaining the army captain (Dagoberto Gama) with his violin-playing, is secretly plotting to recover the weapons for the resistance.

Shot in high-contrast monochrome, the film gradually unveils itself as a parable of exploitation: Don Plutarco, having gently explained the human capacity for evil to his young grandson, is later seen signing his livelihood away for the pitiful price of a mule. Tavira is astonishing in the role of the old man, his face an evocative record of the hardship and courage of a people's struggle. A terrific debut by Vargas, who wrote, directed and produced.

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