If Samuel Beckett was alive and breathing, he’d be sitting on a bench somewhere shrugging his shoulders.
El Dorado is a Belgian film about two somatically dissimilar gentlemen and a car. When the skinny, tall one gets caught trying to rob the short, fat one, they end up in a very unexpected kind of stand-off. Each waits for the other to move…for hours. This acts as a metaphor for their whole relationship. We watch as their antagonism turns into indifferent and playful commiseration on their brief spell of a slog through life.
When the real point of your film is to show the meaning in nothingness, you better have some great cinematography, and El Dorado does. It’s stunning. Rich. Very thought-out. The camera is again and again positioned to flip the world upside down. A shot of clouds moving over a field will have the field look like clouds and the sky look ripe for the picking. This is done better in the first half than the second, but it’s the movie’s motor.
The two men, in their classic Chevy, do a bit of Easy Rider, a bit of Lost Highway, a bit of Midnight Cowboy, and a bit of humor. After all, is 2008 Belgium really where you would set the Dennis Hopper biopic? There are darkly comedic moments amid all the absurdity, but they won’t crack a smile on a hapless observer, nor will the tragic scenes pull a tear out of anyone’s eyes. I’d be willing to bet, in fact, that the vast majority of audiences will neither laugh nor cry, and will leave feeling pleasantly empty.
“That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth.” [Waiting for Godot]
Plays July 3-9 at the Sundance Kabuki. Info.