Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Cocote

Reviews - Cocote


Reviewed By Pam Newns

Last Sunday's film at Keswick Film Club, Cocote, is a true original – a film from the Dominican Republic which, as the reviews said could either be seen as 'a dazzling piece of cinematic innovation' or 'stylistic trickery leading to attention deficit disorder'. I left the Alhambra feeling battered by noise and a melange of images, although the plot was essentially quite simple.

Alberto (Vincente Santos), a quiet devout Christian, returns to his rural village in Oviedo following the death of his father, Eusebio. He finds Eusebio is already buried (he has been murdered), and his sisters are constantly badgering Alberto to avenge their father's death. The film compares the father's beheading to the slaughter of a chicken – the director has explained that the 'cocote' of the title means 'neck' in the Dominican Republic and implies the violence of breaking it. The bulk of the film is taken up with the nine-day intense religious mourning ritual which follows ('los rezos de la novena') – a ceremony of incessant chanting, drumming and villagers going into a state of religious trance/ecstasy. Alberto is eventually persuaded, against his better nature, to track down Martinez, his father's murderer, and kills him with a machete in the bloody denouement.

There are some marvellous contrasting shots and sounds – the loud crackling of a fire with swirling grey smoke (filmed in black and white) gives way to the screeching of birds and colourful shots of the rain forest. A static colour shot of a Hockney-like swimming pool (in the manicured garden of Alberto's well-heeled employer) contrasts with a black and white tableau of fish heads, and the shanty town shacks in his village. The dark scene where a dazed Alberto runs down the road, covered in Martinez' blood, solely lit by car headlights is memorable, as is the scene where Alberto, driven to distraction by his sisters' hectoring of him, explodes with a raucous 'Shut your mouth!', with which we could all identify.

The film is a first feature from director Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, and relies heavily on documentary-like footage of the emotionally charged religious ceremony of the 'rezos'. It is essentially experimental, with footage ranging from film to video, black and white to vivid colour, well composed shots with TV news inserts. The constantly shifting visuals and over-long drumming and chanting sequences meant that for me, the more intriguing elements
and visually stunning shots were drowned out and it became rather tedious.

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