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Zenú [Claudio Marcotulli, USA, 2018]

Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky parameterizes the search for ideas thus: “the hunt is forbidden, fishing is permitted.” Kindred surrealist David Lynch simply calls it “catching the big fish.” Accessing inspiration requires a little bit of bait and lure – like trying to remember a dream, it escapes when sought directly.

In Claudio Marcotulli’s kaleidoscopic Zenú, Ignacio (Marcotulli) is a musician creatively blocked by the incessant whistling of the trains that pass his canalside house. A local fisherman (Jose Payes) is a sage if elliptical voice: “this net is not mine,” he explains when Ignacio, in questioning his claim of a productive morning’s fishing, remarks on its emptiness.

'Zenú' (2018)

Zenú abounds with clipped, dislocating phrases such as these, the language of dreams. By contrast the patterned precision of a 9-1-1 call – compelled as Ignacio observes two men dumping an old cathode ray television into the canal – feels more like a somnambulist odyssey as it transpires over visual fades, subframes, slow-motion and quick-zooms: impressionist shifts in time and memory.

The canal is a placid, apparently unused urban channel upon which Ignacio, in his canoe, takes frequent refuge as inspiration inevitably evades him. Ignacio is a little bit old world: drawn to nature, an unhurried and receptive soul. When he follows a muse-like apparition (Roxana Barba) to a small community somewhere off the canal, he seems comfortable among their indigenous rituals, even if he remains (in a flâneuresque sense) removed. Elsewhere he is hounded by the accelerations and imperatives of the contemporary world, usually via the imposed deadlines of his manager, Eva (Ika Santamaria), who unlike Ignacio seems symbiotically attuned to a hermetically modern life – at one point shown in a backyard pool (still, as ever, conducting business), the water around her pellucid and empty, opposing the canal’s forbidding, reflective shimmer.

Eventually Ignacio – after various detours, false resolutions and punished procrastinations – is dumped TV-like into the canal, breaking its sheen, submerging fully. He surfaces to see Eva above him on the bridge. “You missed it!” she hollers, pointing at the train as it again hoots past. It’s another uncannily dreamlike remark, but one that, in the opposing worldviews of these two characters - interested in the same product yet entirely at odds as to the means of its production - makes sense. “I missed nothing,” says Ignacio, kicking backward in the water, alighting softly on his back to be gently encircled by a giant fish.


'Zenú' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.


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