by Jaie Laplante, Executive Director & Director of Programming
“Two of the most insanely watchable actors in movies right now – [Gael García] Bernal and Javier Bardem – are both Hispanic…part of an important shift, long overdue…The source of Bernal’s appeal could not be purer: we can’t take our eyes off his eyes.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
What makes Gael García Bernal “insanely watchable” is his consistent intelligence and unpredictability in his selection of projects and roles. For every high-profile, Cannes-winning and Oscar-nominated film such as Pablo Larrain’s No (2012) or the new hit Amazon TV series “Mozart in the Jungle”, Bernal will work on such intriguing and risky smaller projects such as Julia Loktev’s lovely The Loneliest Planet (2011), or Participant Media’s new “machete Western”, Ardor (opening Friday July 17th in Miami at MDC’s Tower Theater and at O Cinema Miami Beach).
Directed by Argentine Pablo Fendrik, Ardor is a vivid, sometimes even lurid, impressionistically ornate Western, in the over-the-top mythic fashion of Sergio Leone’s deliberate mix of artifice and hyper-realism in his Spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. Bernal plays Kaí, who mysteriously appears out of the rainforest when a group of mercenaries (led by Claudio Tolachir) ransack a poor farm, murdering the patriarch Joao and kidnapping the beautiful young daughter Vania, played by Alicia Braga (City of God, I Am Legend).
Participant Media is a leading media company “dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change”. In financing Ardor (made possible by Bernal’s star wattage on the marquee), the company is clearly trying to dramatically address the issue of South American rain forest devastation by unchecked human economic plundering.
Gael García Bernal holds the ambition of Ardor together. As Anthony Lane observed, what Bernal holds in his eyes and behind his eyes at any given moment captures entire spectrums of conflicts in a single look. In Ardor, those Bernal eyes burn with furor over indignant injustices, all the while suggesting that his rage may in fact be intensified by awareness of a culpability within. Ardor is a slow-burning, heavily symbolic journey that is not for everyone; but those who give themselves over to Bernal and this sweaty, infested vision of environmental perdition will shudder with haunted worry. – Jaie Laplante