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October (Octubre): Film Review

October

The Bottom Line

This wry tale of two lonely people has a quiet charm.

Venue:

Festival de Cannes, Certain Regard

Cast:

Bruno Odar, Gabriela Velasquez, Carlos Gasols

Directors:

Daniel Vega, Diego Vega

Screenwriters:

Daniel Vega, Diego Vega

A lot can happen in a month, like in this shaggy dog tale about a sourpuss moneylender who discovers his need for a family when a baby is left on his doorstep.

CANNES -- A lot can happen in a month, like in this shaggy dog tale about a sourpuss moneylender who discovers his need for a family when a baby is left on his doorstep. Shot in a low-rent district of Lima by young Peruvian brothers Diego and Daniel Vega who wrote, directed and produced, "October" has a funny cast of characters and a wry, unpretentious charm that should appeal to festivals more than commercial outlets.

This first feature, distinguished by its sense of off-beat, low-key humor and a carefully measured shooting style, is much in line with such quiet Argentine and Uruguayan titles as "Whiskey" and "The Custodian." It is a small film that won't set the world on fire but should win admirers with its own sort of originality.

Clemente (Bruno Odar) is a silent, morose, not particularly dangerous loan shark who relates to his neighbors by lending them small amounts of money. He relates to women the same way, by paying for the no-talk, no-commitment services of a local brothel. His gray, cheerless existence is suddenly turned upside down when one of the hookers leaves him a baby in a basket and disappears.

One of his clients is the religious Sofia (an excellent Gabriela Velasquez), no longer young and prone to wearing monk's robes. Now she sees her chance to change her life and leave spinsterhood behind. With the excuse of taking care of the baby while Clemente hunts down the child's mother, she moves into his spacious, run-down dump of an apartment, cooks and cleans and eventually works up to sharing his bed. Her journey from babysitter to surrogate wife is accompanied by copious prayers to the Lord of Miracles, celebrated in Peru every October.

The acting is deadpan, particularly Odar as the alienated money-lender, but one can feel the directors' warmth towards these poor souls scraping by materially and emotionally, beautifully captured in Fergan Chavez-Ferrer's spare lighting and the austere sets. Wisely, the story closes on an upbeat note of hope.

Venue: Festival de Cannes -- Certain Regard
Sales: Umedia
Production companies: Maretazo Cine
Cast: Bruno Odar, Gabriela Velasquez, Carlos Gasols, Maria Carbajal, Sheryl Sanchez Mesco, Victor Prada, Sofia Palacios, Norma Francisca Villarreal, Humberta Trujillo
Directors: Daniel Vega, Diego Vega
Screenwriters: Daniel Vega, Diego Vega
Producers: Daniel Vega, Diego Vega
Director of photography: Fergan Chavez-Ferrer
Production designer: Guillermo Palacios Pomareda
Editor: Gianfranco Annichini
No rating, 83 minutes