Sunday, 21 August 2016

The annual cultural trip to Santiago de Chile.

I've now been here for just over half a week and haven't let the grass grow under my feet. The first high point of my stay was being upgraded by the hotel from a suite to the penthouse duplex because of necessary plumbing in the original flat. Nice start! There's even a roof terrace with a parasol which I've been able to use as it's really not cold here, despite it being winter, apparently.

As I've written before, cinema and theatre are cheap to attend here, so I don't spend much time at home in the evenings. I'll gradually add to this list as my stay progresses:

 Not a bad film, the Chilean critics being pretty kind to this sub-Hollywood love story which nevertheless adequately paints the broad brush strokes of that extraordinary settlement a few hundred miles south of Santiago as well as bravely implicating the collusion of the German government of the time in covering up for Paul Schäfer and some vile practices of Pinochet's henchmen in the basement.

Now this was a completely different kettle of fish. Tired of always being asked by his family when he's going to get married and settle down, a forty-something filmmaker decided to make a film about his situation. It sounds quite promising but the result was dreadfully boring and pretty pointless, to say the least. Oh well.

I've just got in from seeing this theatre piece. It was excellent, an interesting and highly amusing take on swingers and what could happen if it all goes wrong. If you're in Santiago, I really recommend you see it.

You have to see this film, it's a must. I only went as it was playing in my favourite little art house cinema near my luxury penthouse duplex, but I'm glad I did. Once again, very thought-provoking and highly amusing at the same time with a fairly unexpected twist in the tail.

Paolo Sorrentino's film, Youth, is worth watching. Interesting performances by Michael Caine as a retired composer/conductor and Harvey Keitel as a waning film director, on holiday in a sort of Swiss spa-cum-sanitorium, reflecting on life, observing youth etc. The girl on the poster is Romanian model Madalina Ghenea, who plays a freshly-crowned Miss Universe, spending a week at the establishment. It's really a bit part, she has hardly any screen time, the story concentrating on Michael Caine's gradual rapprochement with his family via a series of unrelated events as well as Harvey Keitel's attempts to make his career-defining magnum opus. It's a gentle, slow-moving film with the odd kitschy moment and worth a couple of hours of anyone's time.

Nice performance last night of this classic with an exclusively South American cast under the expert baton of Pedro-Pablo Prudencio. A couple of debatable casting elements, but otherwise worthy of this reputable stage.

Dios es un lujo - God is a luxury - has been running, on and off, at the Teatro del Puente here in Santiago for the last six years. It tells the story of three prostitutes, a trans and a drug addict lumped together in a police cell. They talk about their lives, their fears, their beliefs…it's extremely well done with no special effects - in fact, there's no scenery whatsoever, just lighting - but acting talent to burn. There are still a couple of performances to go, so if you're in Santiago, head over to the Parque Forestal and take it in. It's more than worth the CLP6000 (c.€8) ticket price. Runs an hour.

Just got back from this pleasant piece of burlesque comedy. Excellent performance from Magdalena Max-Neef as the successful psychiatrist and sexologist Luisa and wife of the somewhat 'busy' Andrès:

The camping up is a bit OTT, but the point is well-made in a still extremely conservative society. The Teatro San Ginés is the largest neighbourhood comedy theatre I've been to here and the ticket price reflected that: more than double some of the others but still respectable at around €16. It's a larger operation all round.

Teatro Ictus always puts on good work and the diction is invariably excellent, so I get more for my money. Tonight was the dress rehearsal of Okupación, premiered in 2005 and revived now. It's a reflection on whether secondary schools should be privatised…
…or whether they should remain entirely publicly funded. It's a Mrs. Merton question of course, and I didn't get the impression the piece or the debate had been updated since it last played here. The central question - should pupils be trained to be marketable products or should schools continue to form rational and inquisitive human beings - is over-simplistic and didn't address the subject in sufficient depth, neglecting the more important issue of whether our schools should be more pragmatic in orientating pupils towards the existing job market; an important shade of grey which, sadly, made no appearance in this play. Still, a well-performed, entertaining way to spend ninety minutes.

El Biógrafo conveniently had a programme change the other day, bringing in La Chispa de la Vida for Se Dio Vuole. Released in 2011, the English title is As Luck Would Have It and features Salma Hayek as the wife of a somewhat depressed, out-of-work former advertising whizzkid who tries reactivating old contacts to get his working life back on track. The rest of the cast, which includes José Mota and Juan Luis Galiardo, is excellent, though largely unknown in the English-speaking world, hence all the advertising centring on Salma Hayek, I suppose. It's a nicely done, albeit not terribly subtle commentary on contemporary society's obsession with celebrity. The plot lacks depth and the end predictable. Worth seeing, nevertheless.

Tonight, it's the premiere of Puccini's La Bohème at the Teatro Municipal. It's a nice production which makes no waves, is decently acted and well sung. It'll be a good evening.

So that's pretty much it from Santiago this year. In addition to those activities listed above, I've been to the National History Museum, The Violeta Parra Museum and The National Museum of Military History, before taking a trip out to Lonquén yesterday. Got back into yoga with ten early morning classes, sampled some excellent Chilean red wines and had a few excellent meals out, of which Bocanariz was probably the best. It's a great place to be. Don't just take my word for it…

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