Cocote Screen 8 articles



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  • There are dozens of films that deal with this theme, but Cocoteis really distinguished by Nelson Carlos de los Santos Arias' fluid, poetic mode of narration. It can be difficult at times to know exactly what's going on, but this is because Arias chooses to mirror both Alberto's cultural dislocation and the mystical tenor of the pagan beliefs.

  • It shifts restlessly and seamlessly back and forth... between color and black and white, between static shots and moving ones, between agitated handheld camerawork and gliding, wonderfully graceful 360-degree pans. The resultant sense of restlessness neatly dovetails with the boundless energy of the burial ritual, which speaks to a country's irrepressible urge to give free rein to emotion, an urge to which Alberto too eventually submits, and with suitably violent results.

  • If the story, which oscillates between pagan and Christian beliefs, is at times schematic, De Los Santos Arias’s rapturous, intimate camera is particularly effective in capturing real-life rituals. By mixing the mourning scenes in which non-actors give in to grief, and their rhythmic, ecstatic, pulsing dances, with improvised dialogues that bristle with vernacular wit, the filmmaker brings to life a universe that is at once strange yet pulses with familiar passions.

  • Bringing a rare energy to camerawork and color, De Los Santos Arias pulls out all the stops in rendering not just the cruelty of Alberto and his family’s experience but also their own vibrant modes of expression, in daily life and the beyond, as in its immersive depiction of syncretic funeral rituals.

  • De Los Santos Arias' bold but never overly indulgent stylistic touches—mixing color and black-and-white film stocks, blending fictional scenarios with verité-like footage, and implementing a formally calibrated compositional strategy that never betrays the medium’s observational nature—lend Alberto’s inner conflict an apt aesthetic complement.

  • Intuitively shot with little regard for aesthetic cohesion (which for sure will be off-putting to some), Cocote constantly shifts between different film stocks... and camera styles (360-degree pans, ultra-long takes), while scenes are one minute ethnographic documentary ritual recordings, and the next pure fiction acted by a mix of nonprofessionals and professionals dutifully trained by the director to act like nonprofessionals. Somehow, this all works swimmingly.

  • Deliriously mixing film stocks and tonal shifts, handheld footage of actual syncretic rituals anchor viewers in a reality that its protagonist desperately wants to bypass.

  • De Los Santos Arias appears intent on confronting the cinematic language that has been used to articulate a particular tropical tristesse. . . . Such a palpably exploratory means of getting toward an enigma that lives in and through Alberto is the film’s source of vitality. Cocote feels more like a transmission than an exposition, with cinema the medium through which certain spirits speak.

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