September 23, 2014
Paulo Pécora: the tide is high
For the Herald
Filmmaker premieres Marea baja, a noir thriller set in Paraná Delta
A fifty-something delinquent arrives at a remote spot in the delta of the River Paraná looking for the money he stole in his last job, now hidden somewhere there. Upon arrival, a woman in her fifties offers him room and board in exchange for some money.
Soon, a younger woman who also lives in the delta appears. She shares a carnal relationship with the older woman. In due time, the outsider becomes the third party. Since he betrayed his partners who are now searching for him, it only makes sense that there will be blood.
Marea baja, the new opus by Argentine director Paulo Pécora (El sueño del perro, Las amigas) is an atypical example of film noir. It has some important traits of the genre while it also eschews many others. It’s classical and yet innovative. To be more precise, it’s the kind of film only an auteur willing to push boundaries can make.
The river and the forest are important protagonists in both El sueño del perro and Marea baja. What do you find so alluring about this environment?
The Delta is a mysterious space. It’s an isolated place, far away from civilization, a place out of time that gives the film an ominous, threatening feel. The lush foliage is pretty claustrophobic, the weird and wonderful sounds and the very strangeness of the area create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, which ends up affecting characters and viewers.
Why go for film noir to tell this peculiar story?
I thought of film noir as a departure point and a context, but I tried to follow my own interpretation instead of a formula. The idea was to capture the dense and pessimistic atmosphere of film noir, especially in movies like Rififi or The Killing where everything goes wrong and everybody is doomed. Working within this genre allowed me to explore the dark side of human beings, with its greed and gratuitous violence.
In your films, there’s little or no dialogue at all. How come?
My idea of cinema has much to do with the early stages of the language of cinema, a time when, because of the lack of sound, directors had to create an expressive aesthetic solely based on images, on the pictorial side of images, the pace of editing, or the gestures and movements of actors. I believe in the power of images over words, because it makes me look into ways to provide information through other means, without being explicit or redundant as when unnecessary dialogue is used.
Some of your films take place in imaginary places, be it dreams or visions. What makes these mental spaces interesting?
I’m interested in the subjectivity of dreams, memories and nightmares because they offer me a most valuable chance to be more free with the narrative and the mise en scene. I can invent a world and look for a personal way to narrate it. I’m interested in the challenge posed by intricate, maze-like stories. In this regard, Marea baja is different: it has a linear and classical narrative, very much minimalistic too.
In your short films, you experiment in the vein of surrealism, expressionism, and horror cinema. Why are you drawn to these conceptions of reality?
For starters, I find them fascinating because of their aesthetic legacy to the history of cinema. Secondly, they allow me to move away from realism and get closer to more elements of the fantastique.
This way I can examine the irrational, that which lies beneath the reality of the everyday.
It’s a vague, ambiguous space in which some kind of non formulaic poetic language can (and does) surface.