Also remembered by many as the year Facebook became available for public use this, the third article in this cannon, looks at two films available for rental in 2006; the thrilling political drama The Constant Gardener (2005) and Spanish language film Bombon El Perro. Also available for rent that year were the Oscar winning Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Million Dollar Baby (2004) along with another, somewhat more heart-breaking political drama.
The Constant Gardener a film based on a popular novel by Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy writer John le Carré garnered actress Rachel Weisz an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress along with nominations for several of the behind the scenes staff, yet it did not leave as much of an imprint, nor did its echoes resonate quite as loudly as some of the other social and political dramas that were so popular that year.
Despite this I feel it is well worth revisiting, the casting choices made by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, who won an Oscar two years previously for City of God (2002), are in my opinion large contributors the film’s tension and impact. Alongside Weisz, who played passionate activist and new wife to a British Diplomat in Kenya, Tess, were well known and highly respected British actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a tense and disturbing secret about political corruption and corporate greed.
The mastery and delicacy employed in the constructing of The Constant Gardener’s narrative provides its well-armed cast with ample space in which to work; whilst the first half of the film weaves from present to past and back again Weisz and Fiennes develop a rushed but tangible relationship in which the chemistry between their characters crackles along the lines of the spectacular script. Where later on the use of a handheld camera ties you inextricably into the drama, helping to create a detailed yet somehow alien and ferocious sense of place.
Yet one could not argue that the action in such a film is over-whelming, thanks largely to le Carre’s writing The Constant Gardener is an intelligent and progressive piece of cinema, as it winds along a story of thrills and tension it also knots the audience into complex and morally grey situations, striking the knife edge balance between confrontation and intrigue. Again, however it is the performances that keep one involved despite such intellectual unrest; without the depth and drive behind Finnes’ Justin one would only feel disconnected, an observer to an event; instead one cannot help but become thoroughly absorbed.
The other film that captured audience’s attention back in 2006, albeit for very different reasons, was Carlos Sorin’s Bombon El Perro aka "Bombon the Dog", a wonderful and understated comedy about a gorgeous big white dog and a rather luckless middle-aged man. Set in Patagonia, in Latin America the film follows Juan (played beautifully by amateur actor Juan Villegas) a recently unemployed mechanic who, upon helping a young woman whose car breaks down at the side of the road, is rewarded by the gift of her late father’s purebred Dogo Argentino, Bombon (whose credit titles him as "Gregorio"). With this as its foundation Bombon gently unwinds into a story of friendship and the importance of being needed by other human beings, though the film would be nothing without the charming and touching performances from the main actors – Gregorio included.
The real beauty of Bombon is not so much its story, which moves slowly and gracefully but accomplishes very little along the way, but rather the gentle and detailed exploration of friendship and belonging that lies within the folds of the film’s narrative. As any dog owner will tell you the relationship with one’s dog is a unique one, whilst the relationship between the sweet and unassuming Juan and his two-legged counterpart Walter is also a very special one indeed. The magic of the comedy in Bombon is the way in which the humour is implied: rather than being overtly comedic the film is rather more like a pleasant lingering aftertaste following the consumption of one’s favourite meal, a warmth that spreads through the soul and brings a quiet but nonetheless striking smile to the face, one that is wonderfully mirrored on the loveable but aging face of Juan and his shaggy white dog.
Do not ask me here to choose which of these two films I would name Best in Show for 2006; it would hard be to find two more different films, one which is so effortlessly graceful whilst the other is precise and direct. They may not be the biggest, the most expensive or the most award winning but they are still in our opinion some of the very best.
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