Dir. Luis Llosa. Spain/UK. 2006. 135mins.
In The Feast Of The Goat, action specialist Luis Llosa(Sniper, Anaconda) moves decisively from his Hollywood assignments to somethingmore personal and troubling. Adapting from the novel by his cousin Mario VargasLlosa, it results in a wrenching and awkward study aboutthe monstrous political reign of Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo.
It should play well toupscale niche markets in the US and Hispanic territories, although its relianceon English language subverts a scrupulously achieved atmosphere of time andplace.
Ambitiously structured, themovie is about memory and time, set in 1992 yet also flashing back to the late1950s and early 1960s.
Urania Cabral (Rossellini)returns to Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, for the first time in 30 years. Ostensibly she is there for thebirthday of her father, Augustin (Freeman), also called"Egghead" and a former top lieutenant of the late Dominican dictator Trujillo. But her reappearanceis poised to answer unresolved questions about why she abruptly left thecountry as a young teenager and never came back.
The work shuttles between timeframes and shifting points of view, fluidly mixing the devastating history Urania has repressed and the anguished suffering andhumiliations experienced by a group who are plotting the assassination ofTrujillo.
An oily reptilian withmonstrous lusts and habits, Trujillo (inventively played by Milian)abuses power, women and his subordinates, cuckolding his military advisers andcapriciously ordering the deaths of opponents.
Those in opposition have hadtheir lives disrupted or terrorised, and Llosa amply showswith pain and suffering the personal consequences of Trujillo's tyranny. Theirstories powerfully merge with Urania, whose past isrevealed in a long confession on her father's birthday.
The cast is not that wellknown beyond Rossellini (who gives a sharp performance), although Stephanie Leonidas delivers a tough, tender, emotionally vulnerableturn as the young Urania.
But as with Bille August's TheHouse Of The Spirits - and other Latin Americanstories performed in English - the non-Hispanic dialogue feels strange and peculiar,denying the work a strong sense of place and history.
Production values are impressive,from Javier Salmones's exquisite widescreen framingto Salvador Parra's textured production design.
Jose Manuel Garasino
Andres Vicente Gomez
from the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa
Juan Diego Botto