THE VANISHED ELEPHANT (EL ELEFANTE DESAPARECIDO)
(director/writer: Javier Fuentes Leon; cinematographer: Mauricio Vidal; editor: Phillip J. Bartell; music: Selma Mutal; cast: Salvador del Solar (Edo Celeste), Angie Cepeda (Mara de Barclay), Lucho Cáceres (Rafael Pineda), Andrés Parrar (Ferrer), Tatiana Astengo (Fiscal Sanchez), Carlos Carlín (Tony), Vanessa Saba (Celia Espinoza); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Delia García /Michel Ruben/Andres Calderon/Javier Fuentes Leon; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2014-Peru/Colombia/Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“Convoluted experimental arthouse film about a writer’s journey that morphs into an allegory about artistic illusions.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The collage of a rock formation in the shape of an elephant is the artwork hanging in the Paracas art museum that is the picture from which the film’s title is derived.
Peruvian filmmaker Javier Fuentes Leon (“Undertow”) is writer-director of this convoluted experimental arthouse film about a writer’s journey that morphs into an allegory about artistic illusions. It takes on the mantle of a Borgesian labyrinth. We follow the ex-Lima cop and current popular crime novelist Edo Celeste (Salvador del Solar), based in Lima, who is struggling to finish his latest novel when he meets on a hilltop with the mysterious woman who gives him evidence where to find his missing fiancee (Vanessa Saba) who vanished seven years ago during an earthquake. He is led to believe by the mysterious woman she survived and is living with another man. While doing a TV interview for a national show, Edo tells his loyal viewers he plans on killing off his novel’s detective hero (Lucho Caceres), his alter ego, in his final book in the series. As Edo’s personal life starts to resemble his own wild crime stories, reality and fiction become blurred. Meanwhile Fuentes Leon meshes together a police procedural tale with a complicated noir one, as beautiful surreal images and a loose story line takes us confusedly to the ambiguous conclusion. Though it remains poignant as a study on the artist’s creative process, it becomes a flawed and implausible film even if mesmerizing.
REVIEWED ON 12/27/2016 GRADE: B-