Review: ‘Legions’ (2022), starring Germán De Silva, Lorena Vega, Ezequiel Rodríguez, Mauro Altschuler and Fernando Alcaraz

March 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Marta Haller in “Legions” (Photo courtesy of XYZ Films)

“Legions” (2022)

Directed by Fabián Forte

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Argentina, the comedic horror film “Legions” features a Latino cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An elderly, powerful sorcerer, who is locked away in a psychiatric institution hopes to reunite with his long-lost daughter to save Argentina from demonic forces.

Culture Audience: “Legions” will appeal mainly to people who don’t mind watching tacky-looking and incoherent horror movies.

Germán De Silva in “Legions” (Photo courtesy of XYZ Films)

“Legions” tries too hard to be bizarre. The end result is a horror movie that isn’t very scary. The visual effects are also very cheap-looking and tacky. The father-daughter sorcerer storyline isn’t as interesting as it could have been. And the movie’s intentional comedy is often clumsily handled and not very funny at all.

Written and directed by Fabián Forte, “Legions” (which takes place in Argentina) tells the story of a powerful sorcerer named Antonio Poyju, an elderly man (played by Germán De Silva), who has been locked up in a psychiatric institution for many years. He says in a voiceover in the beginning of the movie: “Some people call me a shaman, a sorcerer. I prefer to be called a mediator between worlds. I belong to a lineage of powerful men. My blood is sacred.”

A flashback to 1980 shows Antonio as a young man (played by Fernando Alcaraz) in the Missionary Jungle, where Antonio says he confronted “a very dangerous demon, from the lower levels.” In this flashback, a 16-year-old girl (played by Julieta Brito) appears to be dead on the ground, until a young Antonio blows smoke in her face. She then appears to come to life, and she attacks him.

She says to Antonio: “Sorcerer, I condemn your offspring,” as Antonio throws holy water on her. Viewers later find out that this girl was daughter Elena, and she was possessed by a demon. Did the demon’s curse happen?

A flash-forward to the present day shows that Antonio has heartbreak in his life: Elena disppeared from his life in 1980, shortly after the demon’s curse. Antonio has been looking for her ever since. Another flashback shows that when Elena was a baby, Antonio once found his wife Amanda (played by Laura Manzaneda) with black bile coming out of her eyes and mouth, after she was seen in a trance asking something unseen: “Why do you want to take our baby.”

In the psychatric institution, Antonio complains to a psychiatrist: “I’m surrounded by faithless young people.” The movie then goes on a very dull and weird tangent by wasting a lot of time showing a dramatic play that is being staged in the institution. The play is based on Antonio’s life story, so he is overseeing it and acting like he’s some kind of important director. Other patients in the institution are elderly Roberto (played by Mauro Altschuler), middle-aged Olga (played by Marta Haller) and young Eduardo (played by Víctor Malagrino), who at various times bicker with each other and with Antonio.

It’s enough to say that an adult Elena (played Lorena Vega) comes back into her father Antonio’s life. The spirit of Elena’s dead grandmother Isarrina (played by Isabel Quinteros) possesses Elena and warns Elena and Antonio that a demon named Kuaraya wants to sacrifice Elena on “the red moon’s night.” And then there’s some nonsense about Antonio and Elena having to team up to save Argentina from a demon takeover.

Overall, “Legions” is not the worst horror movie ever. It just doesn’t tell the story in a way that is very intriguing. The acting performances aren’t impressive. It’s one of those horror film that fills up a lot of “jump scare” time with scenes of demon sightings and people with blood coming out of various body parts. The inevitable showdown is a jumbled mess that offers no surprise. “Legions” is ultimately a forgettable horror film among the many horror films about people with supernatural powers who try to stop demons.

XYZ Films released “Legions” on digital and VOD on January 19, 2023. The movie was released in Argentina on December 1, 2022.

Review: ‘The Silent Party,’ starring Jazmín Stuart, Gerardo Romano, Esteban Bigliardi, Lautaro Bettoni and Gaston Cocchiarale

August 7, 2022

by Carla Hay

Lautaro Bettoni, Gaston Cocchiarale, Jazmín Stuart and Hudson Gomes De Oliveira Santana in “The Silent Party” (Photo courtesy of Outsider Pictures)

“The Silent Party”

Directed by Diego Fried and Federico Finkielstain

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in Argentina, the dramatic film “The Silent Party” features an all-Latin cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: On the evening before her wedding, a woman impulsively attends a silent disco party, where everyone is a stranger to her, and a heinous sexual assault leads to violent revenge.

Culture Audience: “The Silent Party” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in suspenseful movies that present provocative issues about victim blaming and getting justice in sexual assault crimes.

Esteban Bigliardi and Gerardo Romano in “The Silent Party” (Photo courtesy of Outsider Pictures)

Some viewers might not like how “The Silent Party” has an ending that is open to interpretation. However, this suspenseful drama adeptly shows how people can perceive the same crime in different ways. The way that viewers might feel about this crime often mirrors how people feel about victim blaming and victim shaming in sexual assaults. “The Silent Party” was made to make viewers uncomfortable and to get people to think about how not all rapes start off as a forceful act.

Directed by Diego Fried and Federico Finkielstain, “The Silent Party” takes place in an unnamed city in Argentina. Fried co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Nicolas Gueilburt and Luz Orlando Brennan. Does it matter if an all-male team of directors and writers make a movie about a woman who gets raped? It depends. In the case of “The Silent Party,” the filmmakers handle the subject matter with raw realism that is not exploitation.

“The Silent Party” starts off looking like it will be a movie about an engaged couple who will be getting married the following day. Laura (played by Jazmín Stuart) and her Brazilian immigrant fiancé Daniel (played by Esteban Bigliardi), nicknamed Dani, have arrived at the Hidden Moon ranch property that Laura’s father has inherited from Laura’s paternal grandmother. Laura and Daniel’s wedding and reception will be held at the ranch.

Laura and Daniel are both in their early 40s, and the movie never states what they do for a living. Laura’s father is named Dr. Leon Grandi (played by Gerardo Romano), but it’s never mentioned what type of doctor he is. However, Leon is a doctor who appears to still be working because his receptionist calls him at one point in the movie. Laura’s mother is not seen or mentioned at all. It’s implied that Laura’s mother hasn’t been in this family’s life for many years.

Leon mentions that all of his friends and colleagues are coming to the wedding, which will be an outdoor ceremony with about 100 guests. Laura (who is an only child) has bought a simple white dress for the occasion. Daniel sees that only 10 tables have been set up for the reception. He wonders aloud if those tables will be enough to accommodate 100 people. Leon tells him not to worry about it. Daniel is also much more preoccupied than Laura with the guest list, such as who confirmed their RSVPs and who didn’t.

In fact, Leon and Daniel seem to be more in charge of the decision making for this wedding than Laura is in charge. Laura acts as if she has let other people take care of most of the wedding planning. Even the way that she treats her wedding dress (she casually tosses it on a bed) seems to be in a nonchalant manner. Is she even excited about getting married?

Laura and Daniel have arrived at the ranch the day before the wedding. Most brides would make sure to check on wedding details, such where the bridesmaids are, the status of the catering preparations, and how the decorations look. However, Laura doesn’t seem curious about this information.

These are clues that Laura might be having doubts about whether or not she should marry Daniel. Viewers never find out how long she and Daniel have been a couple or other details about their relationship because this 87-minute movie is all about what happens in the present. And for now, although Laura and Daniel are not having any major arguments with each other, there seems to be some underlying tension in their relationship. For example, they bicker a little bit because Daniel thinks that Laura is drinking too much alcohol, while Laura thinks Daniel is being too uptight.

Not long after Laura and Daniel have arrived at the ranch, Leon is in an open field shooting a 9 millimeter handgun for target practice. Laura is nearby, so Leon tries to get Laura to shoot the gun too. It makes her uncomfortable, so she refuses. It’s at this point in the movie that you know that you haven’t see the last of this gun.

In this scene, Laura also visibly cringes when Leon says that he hopes that Laura has a daughter who is just like Laura. Her displeased reaction is a sign that Laura has some resentment for Leon’s presumptions about Laura’s family planning decisions. He doesn’t seem to care what Laura wants when it comes to family planning. Viewers shouldn’t assume what Laura’s plans are either, because when or if Laura wants to be a parent is never mentioned in the movie. Although Leon appears to be a loving and protective father to Laura, he makes some other comments in other scenes that show he has very sexist beliefs on what women can and can’t do.

When Laura and Daniel get settled into their bedroom at the ranch, Laura makes some amorous moves on Daniel, but he seems too distracted and nervous to get intimate. Daniel explains that he doesn’t feel comfortable doing anything sexual while Laura’s father Leon might be in a nearby room. Laura looks hurt by this rejection, so she leaves the house to go for a walk in the woods that surround the ranch property. It will turn out to be a fateful decision.

During her walk at sunset, Laura sees a silent disco party happening in an open field. There are about 40 people at this party, which is attended mostly by people in their late teens to mid-20s. Laura doesn’t know anyone at this gathering. The party is hosted by a neighbor whose name is later revealed to be Maxi Navarro (played by Gastón Cocchiarale), who sees Laura hesitantly wandering around and is the first person to greet her. Maxi smiles and offers her a pair of headphones and a drink to join in on the party.

It’s unknown if the drink that Maxi gave to Laura was laced with any drugs. But it isn’t long before she’s definitely in the party spirit and appears to have lost her previous inhibitions, because she is dancing as if she doesn’t have a care in the world. As the party goes on, nightfall arrives, and Laura shows no signs that she wants to leave. Maxi and his friend Gabo (played by Lautaro Bettoni), whose real name is Gabriel, begin dancing with Laura, with Laura in the middle of the two men.

However, Laura is only attracted to Gabo, who has an athletic body and a handsome face. By contrast, Maxi has a chubby body and average-looking face. Laura and Gabo begin kissing each other passionately. And then, Laura and Gabo both go together to a more secluded area in the woods. Anyone watching them might assume that Laura and Gabo want privacy because they’re going to get more sexually intimate in a consensual encounter.

The next scene shows Laura going back to the party area alone, while she looks dazed and disheveled. She doesn’t speak to anyone as she leaves the party and walks back to the ranch. It’s obvious that something very wrong has happened. “The Silent Party” shows in flashbacks that Laura was raped. Who raped her and what happened after the rape won’t be revealed in this review.

However, it’s enough to say that Laura doesn’t stay silent about being sexually assaulted. And it leads to a series of events that exemplify how patriarchy, definitions of sexual consent, and what it means to “get justice” all play a role in decisions made by the characters who know about Laura’s rape. Maxi and Gabo have two friends from the party named Alex (played by Hudson Gomes De Oliveira Santana) and DJ (played by Diego Heck Dos Santos) who are among these characters.

The acting performances in “The Silent Party” get the job done well enough, considering that the movie’s characters don’t have a lot of background information. Early in the movie, before the scene where Laura ends up at the party, Leon tells Daniel a story about how when Laura was 13 years old, she was on a camping trip with Leon and four of her friends. Laura disappeared for a few hours. And just as Leon was about to report Laura missing, she was found.

When 13-year-old Laura was asked where she was during the period of time when people couldn’t find her, Laura said that she was somewhere “contemplating the river.” As an adult, Laura tells Daniel and Leon that she doesn’t remember this incident. It’s the movie’s way of saying that Laura blocks out certain childhood memories, and she has a history of wandering off for a few hours without telling people where she’s going, which is exactly the set of circumstances that led her to be at the party in the woods.

The standout characteristics of “The Silent Party” are how it builds tension and how it reveals the story in layers. The movie also looks authentic in showing the chaos that can ensue when people act out of blind rage or panic. Because the revenge part of the story unfolds in “real time,” viewers are taken on a fast-moving journey where the characters can’t or won’t take the time to really think about the consequences of their actions. The movie’s open-ended conclusion seems to deliberately hold up a proverbial mirror to viewers, in order to reflect people’s feelings on what they think should happen next in this brutal revenge story.

Outsider Pictures released “The Silent Party” on digital and VOD on July 12, 2022.

Review: ‘Azor,’ starring Fabrizio Rongione, Juan Pablo Geretto, Stéphanie Cléau and Ignacio Vila

December 28, 2021

by Carla Hay

Juan Pablo Geretto and Fabrizio Rongione in “Azor” (Photo courtesy of MUBI)

“Azor”

Directed by Andreas Fontana

Spanish and French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Argentina in 1980, the dramatic film “Azor” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A Swiss banker encounters mystery and controversy when he arrives in a politically chaotic Argentina after a banker colleague disappears.

Culture Audience: “Azor” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching “slow burn” movies about international politics and financial dealings.

Fabrizio Rongione in “Azor” (Photo courtesy of MUBI)

“Azor” requires patience in getting to the bottom of the mystery presented in the film. It’s a dialogue-heavy drama about a Swiss banker who travels to Argentina when one of his business partners has disappeared. The story unfolds at a pace that might be too slow for some viewers, but it should hold the interest of viewers who are intrigued by how the worlds of politics and finance are intertwined.

Swiss filmmaker Andreas Fontana makes an assured feature-film directorial debut with “Azor,” which he co-wrote with Argentinian filmmaker/actor Mariano Llinás. This international collaboration on the screenplay serves the movie well, which shows how a Swiss banker navigates his visit to Argentina in 1980, during a politically volatile period in Argentina’s history. In 1980, Argentina was under a military dictatorship.

Under these circumstances, Swiss banker Yvan de Wiel (played by Fabrizio Rongione) has traveled from Geneva, Switzerland, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with his wife, Inès de Wiel (played by Stéphanie Cléau), because of an urgent matter: Yvan’s business partner René Keys (played by Alain Gegenschatz) has disappeared. René also happens to be Inès’ cousin, but she tells Yvan that she doesn’t know where René is or when he’ll be coming back.

Yvan and René are among the owners of a private financial institution called Keys Lamar De Wiel Bank. Yvan inherited his share of the bank from his grandfather. There are part of “Azor” that show how Yvan has some insecurities about being perceived as an unqualified heir—someone who’s in this privileged banking position not because he earned it but because he happened to be born into the right family.

Much of “Azor” is about Yvan finding out that René left behind a mess of disgruntled customers and alienation among business colleagues. Yvan has to give apologies on behalf of René. Yvan even tells a client that René’s “attitude is deplorable.” Mr. Decôme (played by Gilles Privat), a former partner of the bank and a good friend of Yvan’s father, describes René as “brilliant” but “toxic” and someone who “lost his mind.”

Did René voluntarily disappear or did he run into foul play? Yvan starts to find some clues in René’s appointment book. He also gets some clues a collegaue named Dekerman (played by Juan Pablo Geretto), who gives Yvan some gossipy inside information about which clients might or might not be the most upset with René.

And he discovers that even though René wasn’t very well-liked by some business colleagues in Argentina, René had his share of fans. One of them is an elderly woman named Viuda Lacrosteguy (played by Carmen Iriondo), who tells Yvan that she and René had such a friendly rapport with each other, they’d play a game: She would start to a sing a song, and René would finish it.

Another admirer of René’s is a horse enthusiast named Anibal Farrell (played by Ignacio Vila), whom Yvan thinks is a difficult client. Anibal is such a fan of René’s, Dekerman describes Anibal’s attitude about René as being “like the drug addict who sucks the dealer’s cock.” This crude language in a world of elite bankers, ambassadors and society people is the first indication that things in this world might not be so genteel at first glance.

Yvan gets deeper and deeper into the a web of intrigue that eventually leads him to a clergyman named Monseigneur Tatoski (played by Pablo Torre Nilson), who is heavily involved in international politics. Although some scenes in “Azor” take place in an Argentinian jungle, much of the movie consists of conversations in lavish homes or corporate offices.

None of the acting is particularly outstanding, but Rongione does a capable job of keeping viewers guessing about the character of Yvan and how far he’s willing to go in his quest. The word “azor” is Spanish for “goshawk,” a bird that is defined by its keen ability to observe before attacking its prey. At one point in the movie, it’s mentioned that “azor” means “Be quiet and be careful what you say.” The film will keep people guessing up until a certain point about who’s the observant predator and who’s the unwitting prey.

Because “Azor” is a very talkative film, it might bore viewers who are expecting more physical action in this story. “Azor” is also not an appealing movie for people who don’t care about behind-the-scenes machinations of bankers and politicians. If viewers decide to stick with the movie and watch it to the very end, they’ll find some surprises proving that initial impressions aren’t always the correct impressions.

MUBI released “Azor” in select U.S. cinemas on September 10, 2021. The movie premiered on the MUBI streaming service on December 3, 2021.

Review: ‘The Alpinist,’ starring Marc-André Leclerc

November 5, 2021

by Carla Hay

Marc-André Leclerc in “The Alpinist” (Photo by Jonathan Griffith/Red Bull Media House/Roadside Attractions)

“The Alpinist”

Directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen

Culture Representation: Filmed from 2016 to 2018 in various parts of North America and South America, the documentary “The Alpinist” features an all-white group of people talking about Canadian alpinist Marc-André Leclerc.

Culture Clash: Leclerc was a daredevil mountain climber/adventurer who ignored warnings about his dangerous mountain climbing.

Culture Audience: “The Alpinist” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in non-fiction movies about people who are compelled to engage in extreme, life-threatening physical activities.

Marc-André Leclerc in “The Alpinist” (Photo courtesy of Red Bull Media House/Roadside Attractions)

“The Alpinist” can get inevitable comparisons to the Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” because each movie is a profile of a daredevil mountain climber who doesn’t use wires, ropes or other safety equipment when climbing. (This practice is known as “free soloing.”) Marc-André Leclerc is the subject of “The Alpinist” (directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen), while Alex Honnold is the subject of “Free Solo,” directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. “The Alpinist” is more of an underdog film than “Free Solo” is, because “The Alpinist” is about a mountain climber known for not seeking out any media attention, even though he engaged in stunts that blew away even the boldest of risk-taking mountain climbers.

Leclerc had such a daredevil reputation that many of the well-known mountain climbers (including Honnold) who are interviewed in “The Alpinist” marvel, as well as show alarm, at all of Leclerc’s hazardous mountain-climbing accomplishments that he achieved, often in record-breaking times. And he did so in a few years (from 2015 to 2018), all by the age of 25. However, unlike most of his peers, Leclerc did not like to call attention to himself by putting his exploits on social media. He also rarely did interviews. Most people (including “The Alpinist” directors) who found out about Leclerc heard about him through word of mouth.

Leclerc (who was born in 1992 in Nanaimo, British Columbia) had occasional sponsors to help pay for his excurisions, but he never got rich off of these sponsorships or other deals that he could have made. In fact, “The Alpinist” shows that Leclerc’s life as a mountain climber was one in which he lived near poverty level, and he was frequently homeless. He often camped outdoors or lived in hostels as a way of life.

Because he wasn’t a media star, many people watching “The Alpinist” might not have heard about Leclerc before seeing this movie and won’t know what happens at the end of the documentary. Therefore, that information won’t be revealed in this review. However, it’s enough to say that the massive summits that Leclerc is shown climbing in “The Alpinist” include Torre Egger in Patagonia and the Mendenhall Towers near Juneau, Alaska.

Needless to say, the documentary’s mountain-climbing cinematography (by Jonathan Griffith, Brett Lowell and Austin Siadak) is absolutely stunning. This movie should be seen on the biggest screen possible to get the best sense of how breathtaking (and dangerous) these alpinist activities are. However, this isn’t just a movie about mountain climbing, because “The Alpinist” also presents an emotionally moving portrait of a young man with an unquenchable thirst for extreme mountain-climbing adventures.

In the production notes for “The Alpinist,” co-director Mortimer says that Leclerc’s appeal was precisely because Leclerc didn’t want to call attention to himself: “Maybe it’s because I grew up listening to punk rock and I’ve always been fascinated by people who stay true to an ideal and refuse to sell out. But as soon as I heard about him, I really wanted to get to know him.”

In order to get this documentary made, the filmmakers had to gain Leclerc’s trust. You can see that over time (“The Alpinist” was filmed from 2016 to 2018), Leclerc felt more comfortable in front of the camera. In his initial interviews for the movie, he seems shy and uneasy when talking on camera.

Through his own words and through interviews with his loved ones—including Leclerc’s mother Michelle Kuipers and Leclerc’s girlfriend/fellow mountain climber Brette Harrington—a picture emerges of a once-troubled kid who dedicated his life to his greatest passion, even if it came a life-threatening cost. Leclerc’s parents split up when he was young; he was raised primarily by his mother, who worked as a restaurant server. His father Serge Leclerc worked in construction.

Kuipers says that her son (her only child) was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “He liked kindergarten, but he hated first grade, so he was homeschooled for a while.” As a child, Leclerc was “a voracious reader,” especially in reading adventure books. At the age of 8, he was introduced to rock climbing to by his maternal grandfather.

Kuipers said that when her son went from being homeschooled to going to a regular high school, he had a difficult time adjusting: “It [high school] was like a form of incarceration for him.” Leclerc describes his childhood as being a resteless rebel, including his teenage years when he began using drugs. After graduating from high school, he moved to Squamish, British Columbia, and had an aimless life. During his early 20s, Leclerc said he was still heavily into the drug scene (frequently taking hallucinogenics such LSD) because he liked the idea of going on mind-altering trips.

Harrington says of Leclerc’s drug-fueled lifestyle: “I could see where Marc could’ve easily slid down that life.” However, Lerclerc says he decided to stop abusing psychedelics and instead get his highs from something that required a certain amount of athleticism and enormous amounts of bravery: extreme, free solo mountain climbing. That doesn’t mean Leclerc completely gave up drugs, since a few scenes in “The Alpinist” shows that he and his mountain-climbing pals indulged in marijuana and hashish when they partied.

Leclerc says taking psychedelics had some mind-expanding effects on him that he implies might have had something to do with his lack of fear in climbing mountains and cliffs, literally without any safety nets. He describes not feeling any anxiety during his climbs—only incredible peace, calmness and the intense focus to get to the next level of the climb. Leclerc often wouldn’t wear gloves during his climbs, since gloves can interfere with a hand’s natural grip. To climb ice-covered terrain, Leclerc would use ice axes.

In the documentary, Harrington describes Leclerc as a “brash” and “broke” (as in financially broke) mountain climber. However, Leclerc’s brashness in this documentary only comes out in his fearlnessness when he climbs. Off of the mountain, he’s mild-mannered and unassuming.

Harrington and Leclerc met in 2012, and they bonded over ther love of free solo mountain climbing and other extreme sports. Harrington says of Leclerc: “He was different from anyone I ever met. He’s socially awkward, but that’s what I like about him.”

And this was no fairy-tale romance: Harrington says that she knew from the start that being with Leclerc would mean not living in regular dwellings. She describes how early on in their relationship, they lived in a tent and were often starving for food. But more than having a food-deprived, nomadic lifestyle, the bigger threat to their existence was knowing that their mountain climbing could result in death.

Several well-known alpinists interviewed in the documentary essentially say the same thing: To be a free solo mountain climber, you have to be a little bit crazy and you have to prepare for the likelihood that you could die while climbing. Among the climbers interviewed are Honnold, Will Stanhope, Jason Kruk, Alan “Hevy Duty” Stevenson, Will Gadd, Bernadette McDonald, Raphael Slawinski, Barry Blanchard, Ryan Johnson, Hugo Acosta, Jon Walsh, Jim Elzinga and Reinhold Messner. “If death is not a possibility,” says Messner, “then the adventure would be nothing.”

Honnold remarks that Leclerc is one of the alpinists he admires the most because Leclerc wasn’t motivated by getting accolades: “He cares about the experience in the mountains and the journey. I really respect that.” Hevy Duty comments on Leclerc’s extraordinary boldness in mountain climbing: “He belongs in the ’70s and the ’80s [decades], when it was wild. He’s a breath of fresh air.”

Although Leclerc allowed this documentary to be made about him, the movie shows that he still had mixed feelings about it. During the documentary’s production, Leclerc broke a record by doing a first-ever solo climb of the Infinite Patience route on the Emperor Face of Canada’s 13,000-foot Mount Robson. However, this achievement was never filmed because Leclerc kept this climb a secret from the filmmakers until after the fact.

To make up for this exclusion, Leclerc let the filmmakers document his journey to Argentina, to climb Patagonia’s Torre Egger during a brutal winter. Only one camera operator was allowed: Leclerc’s friend Siadak. And the trip wasn’t easy, since snowstorms caused some problems. In the lead-up before the climb and after the climb, Leclerc shows how friendly he is in his interactions with hostel owner Hugo Acosta and Acosta’s young son, who seems to look up to Leclerc as a hero.

The final climb in the documentary is when Leclerc, accompanied by experienced climber Ryan Johnson, went to the Main Tower of the Mendenhall Towers in Juneau, Alaska. This trip also took place during snowy weather. It was one of the few times that Leclerc uploaded videos of his progress on the Internet, since he generally shied away from social media.

The takeway from watching Leclerc in this documentary is how determined and focused (some would say obsessed) he is on his mountain-climbing goals. He’s also very humble and self-aware that his obsession with mountain climbing comes at a heavy cost to his personal life. Harrington and Leclerc share the same passion for mountain climbing, but they admit that trips away from each other, as well the very real possibility of death while mountain climbing, can put a strain on even the strongest of relationships.

Viewers will immediately notice that every time Leclerc conquers one of his mountain goals, he doesn’t rest on his laurels and is eager to go on to the next goal. It’s like he’s in a race against time and against himself to accomplish as many of these goals as possible and try to surpass himself and others with these goals. After all, mountain climbing this extreme is not an elderly person’s game. If there’s anything to be learned from “The Alpinist,” it’s that Leclerc’s choice to dedicate his life to free solo mountain climbing came not from having a death wish but from being motivated to live his life to the fullest and in the most authentic way possible.

Universal Pictures Content Group and Roadside Attractions released “The Alpinist” for one night only for a sneak preview (via Fathom Events) in select U.S. cinemas on September 7, 2021, followed by a limited release in select U.S. cinemas on September 10, 2021. The movie’s release date on digital and VOD was November 2, 2021.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Initials SG’

April 28, 2019

by Carla Hay

Initials S.G.
Diego Peretti in “Initials S.G.” (Photo by Roman Kasseroller)

“Initials SG” (“Iniciales SG”)

Directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia

Spanish with subtitles

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

The trials and tribulations of a struggling actor have been the subject of classic Oscar-winning movies, ranging from the 1937 drama “A Star Is Born” to the 1982 comedy “Tootsie” to the 2016 musical “La La Land.” The dark comedy “Initials SG” (“Iniciales SG”) is not going to be an Oscar-winning classic, but it’s a compelling movie about the seedy underbelly of the acting profession far outside of the United States—in this case: Buenos Aires, Argentina. In “Initials SG,” Diego Peretti plays Sergio Garces, a down-on-his-luck, middle-aged actor who still holds on to the dream of achieving major stardom. Years before, Sergio recorded a long-forgotten album of Serge Gainsbourg cover songs in a misguided bid for fame. The title of the movie is a nod to Sergio Garces and Serge Gainsbourg having the same initials.

Sergio—who is single and lives alone—is the type of actor whose career was once promising, but has in recent years been reduced to mostly bit parts as an extra or voiceover roles, and he’s not above making adult films to help pay the bills. After being sentenced to anger management and probation for a fight where he pushed someone out of a window, he gets into a bike accident that injures his nose. The injury negatively affects his health and immediate job prospects.

In the midst of this personal crisis, Sergio meets a visiting American sales agent named Jane (played by Julianne Nicholson) by chance at a bar. She’s more attracted to him than he is attracted to her, and they eventually become lovers after Sergio misses a chance to hook up with a younger woman he’s been lusting after for a while. Sergio’s ego also gets a temporary boost when he finds out that he’s going to honored at a film festival.

“Initials SG” at first gives an appearance of being an absurdist comedy with a protagonist who keeps running into bad luck. This movie is not for the faint of heart. In one of the movie’s scenes, Sergio’s nose injury causes him to have a nose bleed while filming a sex scene in a porn movie. In another scene, we find out the nose injury is more serious than it first appears to be. (Hint: If you’re disgusted by the idea of a slithery animal being stuck in a human body, you might want to skip this film.)

When Sergio goes out on the street outside his apartment, he keeps seeing a weird young man, who’s apparently in a drug-induced haze, because the young man stares up at the sky and points at something that isn’t there. That sidewalk character will play a pivotal role in the last third of the movie, which takes a very sinister turn, as secrets are revealed and covered up. But the movie’s final act is one that might leave audiences the most divided. It’s a bold twist to the story that will linger long after the credits roll.

UPDATE: “Initials SG” is available on HBO and HBO Max.

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