Review: Wolf and Dog
- VENICE 2022: Portuguese filmmaker Cláudia Varejão presents a powerful and oneiric feature film, an uncompromising portrait of a generation struggling to exist
Portuguese filmmaker Cláudia Varejão has made a name for herself with audiences and critics thanks to works that mix reality and fiction through dreamlike images that transform the everyday into poetry. These include Ama-San [+see also:
film profile] (2016), a homage to a community of Japanese fisherwomen, which received a special mention at Karlovy Vary, and Amor Fati [+see also:
interview: Cláudia Varejão
film profile] (2020), selected in numerous festivals including Visions du Réel, Doclisboa and CPH:DOX, which showcases "atypical" couples that defy social conventions: friends, family members, lovers or animals with their owners.
Her latest feature film Wolf and Dog [+see also:
interview: Cláudia Varejão
film profile], premiered in the Giornate degli Autori section of the 79th Venice Film Festival, is positioned within this complex and delicate process of amalgamation between reality and fiction, the power of direct observation and the magic of narration. Varejão's documentary spirit re-emerges in her desire to shoot the film in a very specific place, inhabited by strong and at times suffocating social and cultural realities, as well as in her choice to rely on a cast made up of non-professional actors. In this regard, the director specifies that Wolf and Dog is a condensation of her memories, of her inner world but also of the long research undertaken with the young people and inhabitants of the island of São Miguel. Different stories come together to give shape to a narrative made up of micro universes and micro wounds to heal. The local community, concretely involved in the making of the film, becomes, as Varejão emphasises, "the backbone of the work".
Ana (Ana Cabral) was born on the island of São Miguel, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where religion and ancestral traditions reign supreme. Growing up in a family of two brothers, her mother and grandmother, Ana realises from an early age that girls and boys do not have to abide by the same rules. Thanks to her friendship with the charismatic and mysterious Luis (Ruben Pimenta), her queer best friend who expresses a proudly worn diversity through his baroque and gender fluid looks, Ana begins to question the world around her, the injustices of a society in which strictly binary gender identity is worshipped as a relic. In this regard, one of the drag queens at the club frequented by Ana and Luis says with sad foresight: “binarism is a prison.” When Cloé (Cristiana Branquinho), a friend of Ana’s, arrives from Canada to spend the summer on the Portuguese island, the lightness of adolescence and the richness of a rainbow-coloured spectrum of gender take over her world. Intoxicated by exhilarating feelings she never thought she could experience and by a liberating dose of rebellion, Ana begins a journey that will take her away from her native island. A trip that will make her discover other realities, more in line with her multifaceted and indomitable spirit.
Wolf and Dog is a portrait at once luminous and powerful of the queer community of the island of São Miguel, a gender fluid ode that transforms violence into tenderness, intolerance into a community spirit with soothing power. Poignant and poetic are the intimate scenes in which creatures that seem to have come out of David LaChapelle's dreamlike, pop universe take over the scene, reminding us that they too have the right to exist despite a diversity that society would like to relegate forever to the shadows. Particularly powerful in this regard is the use of Klaus Nomi's The Cold Song as Luis, forced to shave his hair as a sign of submission, stands on stage surrounded by Ana, Cloé and the other drag queens. Wolf and Dog is a hymn to fragility understood as an act of rebellion in favour of a diversity that imposes itself in all its poignant truth.
(Translated from Italian)
Photogallery 05/09/2022: Venice 2022 - Wolf and Dog
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