A clear signal of the vitality of current Latin American cinema comes now from Chile, and one that is closer to the narrative playfulness of Alicia Scherson's Play than to the dark intensity of Pablo Larraín's work. For his sophomore feature, Cristián Jiménez takes on writer Alejandro Zambra's debut novella Bonsái and creates a deadpan, bitter-sweet mash-up of love, life and literature, set in two parallel time frames eight years apart.

     In the past, college students Julio (Diego Noguera) and Emília (Natalia Galgani) find themselves in a cerebral romance mediated by his pretending to have read Proust's Remembrances of Time Past. In the present, struggling writer Julio fails to be hired as an assistant to a celebrated writer but, unable to admit the truth to his neighbour/sometime girlfriend Blanca (Trinidad González), he fakes it by passing the tale of his own romance with Emília, whom he has since lost contact with, as the writer's new work he must transcribe. Juggling the time signatures in clearly signposted blocks framed with wry humour in order to highlight the awkwardness of the corners Julio paints himself into, Mr. Jiménez explores the contrast between self-image and reality, desire and truth, through the time-honoured writer's concept of "write what you know". It is by writing down his own love story that Julio realises what his life has been missing all along, but also that, while he has deliberately stood by, life has passed him by in such a way he may not really be able to make up for the lost time.

     Behind the deadpan wit and enchantingly clumsy tale of a man ill at ease with himself, lies as well a melancholy realisation of how much we are shaped by our choices and how often we make them without realising what we are letting ourselves in for. Bonsái is a smart, lovely movie.

Cast: Diego Noguera, Natalia Galgani, Trinidad González, Gabriela Arancíbia, Andrés Waas, Alicia Fehrmann, Alicia Luz Rodríguez

Director: Cristián Jiménez
Screenplay: Mr. Jiménez, from the novella by Alejandro Zambra, Bonsái
Cinematography: Inti Briones  (colour)
Music: Caroline Chaspoul, Eduardo Henríquez
Art director: Jorge Zambrano
Costumes: Mary Ann Smith
Editor: Soledad Salfate
Producers: Bruno Bettati, Nadia Turincev, Julie Gayet  (Jirafa and Rouge International in co-production with Rizoma and Ukbar Filmes)
Chile/France/Argentina/Portugal, 2011, 92 minutes

Screened: distributor advance screener DVD, Lisbon, May 4th 2012

BONSAI (Trailer Oficial) from Jirafa on Vimeo.


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