Mumblecore makes its first appearance at the East End Film Festival with Jose Luis Torres Leiva's film Verano. Competing in the Best Film category it is greeted by a sparse audience at Rich Mix despite the growing reputation of its Chilean director. Fans of South American cinema couldn't have helped but been impressed by his debut effort The Sky, The Earth and The Rain (winner at the Rotterdam Film Festival) and although there are similarities, Verano unfortunately fails to repeat the trick.
The film has a strange aesthetic and looks as though it can't decide whether it wants to be a home-movie or something more profound. It is essentially a film about memories as we look on a day in the life of several people who are loosely linked. In fact, these ties are so loose that the film fails to find any rhythm at all after a lovely opening scene involving a woman driving to meet her partner who playfully questions why she is late and simultaneously arouses our suspicions. They leave for a day at a spa where we see shots of them swimming, eating, speaking but there is never any suggestion of emotions and little to keep the audience interested. Our attentions are then switched to a thieving hotel guest and a waitress who struggles to fold tablecloths, scenes that are sweet and could work in a more substantial film but on this occasion they are given far too much prominence.
Leiva spoke in the build up to this film about which subjects fuel him as a director, " solitude and isolation" and how he sees them as a part of a greater process but he fails to express that clearly here. There are moments of tenderness not least when two strangers meet at a bus stop towards the end of the film and discuss why they are there and, finally, decide to share a kiss for no reason at all but these instances are fleeting and normality quickly resumes. For every scene like this there are several more of women slowly painting a ceiling or washing the dishes or a dog asleep on the ground. What we are meant to take from such instances and, more importantly, how they relate to the rest of the film remains frustratingly unclear.
Ultimately, Verano should go down as a misdemeanour from an otherwise promising filmmaker. The beauty he is able to capture is ephemeral and you imagine that those who stayed until the film's conclusion (there are plenty who didn't) are left with the feeling that the director would have been better served making a dreamlike short film out of these characters rather than an indulgent 90+ minute piece which feels achingly long. Leiva, for the moment at least, is much more concerned with making an intimate film, rather than an interesting one.