FNC 2010: “Preludio’s” bright dialogue and refreshingly restrained use of the single take

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Editor’s note:

Eduardo Lucatero is a friend and collaborator at Sound On Sight. While my film review can seem biased, Sound On Sight has always taken pride in their honest views.

Directed by Eduardo Lucatero

Ever since Hitchcock’s Rope, real-time cinema has often been utilized by directors and editors unafraid of long static shots in order to heighten a movie’s tension level to the extreme where events unfold as they would if you went by the ticking of the clock. When the era of hand-held cameras came into fission in the ’90s and ’00s, real-time came back in a variety of ways as well as various cinematic offerings. Much like the found footage genre, the one take is used primarily for two reasons: by eliminating costs when producing a film on a shoestring budget or simply used as a gimmick. Thankfully, Preludio doesn’t fall in the latter category.

Preludio consists of one fluid, unbroken shot lasting the entire length of the film, as the camera glides along the roof patio of an apartment building somewhere in Mexico. It’s a boy-meets-girl story wherein he and she remain nameless. “He” dreams of making it big with his rock band by night, by day working in a funeral home, and “She” is currently an unemployed chef – her passion is cuisine. The two, who both arrive early for a dinner party, brush up against each another while sharing cigarettes, tequila and casual conversation.

From the craft point of view, director Lucatero’s film is simple and straightforward but effective. Preludio has no twists, no turns, no subplots. Acting in real time, Preludio’s charm relies on bright dialogue and a refreshingly restrained use of the single take, void of any of the cinematic clichés usually spotted in romantic comedies.

Lucatero (Corazón Marchito) delicately unravels a chance encounter of two individuals both in between relationships; it’s a deceptively simple study, brittle and real, focused on the nuances of body language and unspoken desire. The camera never seems intrusive, instead inviting the viewer in, acting as a lonely voyeur settled across the room, attentively eavesdropping and admiring the budding romance. The film is an experience to witness, not least because of the film’s deft balance of humor and poignancy, which makes it a pleasurable watch we can all relate to. Lucatero follows his characters’ every move. His primary conceit is to engage the audience as a voyeuristic accomplice, and thanks to the two charismatic leads (Ana Serradilla and Luis Arrieta) it never feels like a chore. Preludio also represents another stereotype of the art-house set – the movie in which nothing happens – but Lucatero understands character is action and perhaps the biggest mystery in life is figuring out who we are and what we want. Our two leads retreat to the patio to get away from their friends, finding comfort in the opportunity to reflect upon their lives while finally meeting someone who might understand them. This is a movie that depends on the willingness of the audience to listen to the words being spoken and their ability to conjure images and or memories to go along with what is being said. Cinema is sometimes dreamlike, but where every edit is an awakening, Preludio’s continuous shot feels veritable, like a distant memory and something we’ve all experienced.

At times the director, adopts some spontaneous decisions, like a quick swish pan to a passing airplane, while at other times allowing the camera to float away and focus on a third party –  a peeping tom, who observes some neighborly exhibitionists, or a woman on the brink of tears. While I am not entirely sure if all these choices work in the intended fashion, it’s difficult to criticize the experiments of a movie that so boldly disregards most cinematic conventions. As the couple’s time together winds to a close, the movie’s score is subtly amplified in the final five minutes of the film, precisely escalating the urgency and tension of the situation. The abrupt ending seems like the right choice, leaving it’s viewers, like our leads, anxious and longing for more. For this is a prelude of better things to come, and perhaps those of us still single will sit back secretly hoping for our next chance encounter with who may or may not be the one.

Preludio is an intimate, moody, and never sentimental work from a director who feels like an old pro hitting his stride despite having only two features under his belt.

Ricky D

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