Wednesday, August 1, 2012

JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) review

Juan of the Dead (2011) (2nd viewing) d. Brugues, Alejandro (Cuba/Spain)

Calling writer/director Alejandro Brugués’ crowd-pleasing zom-com a Latino Shaun of the Dead is both a spot-on assessment yet a dangerously reductive one. In the same way that Edgar Wright’s capturing of the London suburban slacker culture proved to be Shaun’s secret weapon, so too does Brugués immerse the viewer within the pulsing poverty stricken Havana streets, lending the film an unexpected authenticity. Cinematographer Carles Gusi paints a leached, anemic landscape, underneath which lies a vibrant array of characters that choose life, whether it be in the face of slow economic starvation or staggering undead hordes. What could have been a cheap, derivatively titled zombie flick turns out instead to be a genuinely rewarding and thought-provoking piece of apolitical entertainment that packs an emotional wallop and side-splitting splatter. Juan is a worthy addition to the walking dead canon, and don’t be surprised if popular Cuban actor Alexis Díaz de Villegas’ superlative turn here – equal parts slapstick clown and noble patriarch – doesn’t launch him into the Hollywood stratosphere a la Simon Pegg. A must see.

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