Color, 2008, 84m.
Directed by Lisandro Alonso
Starring Juan Fernandez, Nieves Cabrera, Giselle Irrazabal
Second Run (DVD) (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0
Easily one of the quietest films ever made, Liverpool is the fourth offering from Argentina-based director Lisandro Alonso, who also helmed such austere mood pieces in the 2000s as La Libertad and Fantasma. After disembarking from his merchant ship bound for Cape Horn, a sailor named Farrell (Fernandez) intends to return to his remote hometown of Tierra del Fuego, primarily to find out whether his ailing mother is still alive. His route becomes a study in evolving landscapes as the trappings of civilization (bars, strip clubs, trucks) dissipate into the snowy terrain of his destination, where he also has an encounter with a mentally-disabled girl who figures prominently in his journey.
Filmed mostly in medium or wide shots, Liverpool is an often staggeringly beautiful film to watch. It's definitely not for the impatient, but as a modern visual successor to such directors as Tarkovsky and Herzog, Alonso is definitely in the running as he eases his long, steady shots into compositions of striking impact. Whether hanging in a strip club, hitching a ride atop a lumber truck, or spending time in a quaint bedroom, Fernandez remains the camera's anchor through almost every scene, guiding the viewer through a sparse but rewarding visual study whose emotional impact only reverberates in full after the last scene.
Second Run's laudable streak of international discoveries continues with this region-free DVD release, which features an excellent transfer befitting a film released theatrically only four years before its English-friendly home video debut. Optional English subtitles are also included for the two-channel stereo soundtrack, in Spanish only. As mentioned before, it's one of the most sedate audio tracks you'll ever hear, but what's demanded of it is pulled off well enough. The director also appears for a brief video statement in which he expresses gratitude to the company for releasing his film and talks about the shooting conditions, while his most recent work at the time, the 2011 short film "Untitled (Letter for Serra)," is also included. Not surprisingly, this is also one of the quietest shorts you'll ever see, and it's more of an autumn study this time and intended as an ongoing series of filmic "conversations" made between various directors. (The "Serra" of the title is director Albert Serra in Spain.) It's broken into six elabroate single shots involving a mysterious gunshot, dogs, and a woman and child. Also included is a 16-page booklet containing notes on both the feature and short film by UK film writer David Jenkins (who amusingly points out that one of Alonso's favorite films as a student was Dirty Harry) and a note from teh director himself, who discusses his reasons for shooting much longer than usual "near the southernmost city in the world."