Screening Room: ‘Embrace of the Serpent’

'Embrace of the Serpent' (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

In Embrace of the Serpent, the partially real, highly imagined stories of two white explorers in the Amazon rain forest are threaded into a kaleidoscopic journey into the last days of a pre-modern civilization.

Embrace of the Serpent opens in limited release this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

Further research would be needed to prove this theory. But it’s probable that nowhere in the writings of Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1872–1924) and Richard Evans Schultes (1915–2001) would you find evidence of a cultish colony fixated on flagellation and crucifixion. Ciro Guerra’s ambitious bolting together of imagined quests by these two real-life explorers adds a lot of that kind of sinister, quasi-Conradian color, but it’s mostly to positive effect. Even though Embrace of the Serpent’s sometimes violent and frequently otherworldly journey up a jungle-bounded river can’t help but echo Coppola and Herzog, Guerra pursues his own path in striking fashion…

You can see the trailer here:

Trailer Park: ‘On the Road’

There are just under a million ways that a film of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road could go wrong. And not just wrong but bad in an eye-rollingly painful manner. That being said, there are few people one would trust more on such a windy and spacious piece of work than Walter Salles, who showed with The Motorcycle Diaries how to turn the personal and rambling into something epic and transformative.

So: on the plus side: Salles directing, Coppola producing, and Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs, who the ever-tricky and extra-literate Viggo seems born to play). On the con side: the appearance of the ever one-note Kristen Stewart, and a previously quite morose Sam Riley playing the ebullient force-of-life Sal Paradise.

In any case, the film opens late in December and we’ll see then. Good luck, folks.

You can see the trailer here: