Juan of the Dead, Alejandro Brugues, 2011, Cuba.
Yes. We must mention another film here. Shaun of the Dead, the great British zombie spoof that one naturally assumes is being mimicked here. No. It is not a reboot. It does bear many similar characteristics, the big ones being the bromance and the zombies, but it is an entirely different film then Shaun. Since it will get inevitable comparisons, I will clear the air right off and say see both as I am not sure it is folly to tempt to pick one over the other.
Juan of the Dead does something else that is special to me, which is to make noer-doell characters likeable. No great shakes you say? Martin Scorsese hasn’t managed to quite pull it off yet! Perhaps it is because the filmmakers present you with these characters, warts and all, and are not begging you to like them, they are simply presented as they are, and given extraordinary circumstances to operate in. In Scorsese’s case, it is as if he presents you with a character and dares you to like them, as he slowly strips them of their humanity. Here, we are allowed to see the humanity that lies beneath the characters and it is easy to relate to.
The cinematography is quite good, sharp and clear, with occasional forays into camera movements, yet it is sensibly done and doesn’t interfere with the story telling. The filmmakers choose not to give too many details and the story unfolds in a somehow relaxing yet thriller paced linear way. The tone is relatively consistent, with a few bits of bittersweet here and there, but mostly retains its comedic root. The acting is quite good, very human. I am not sure if it because we (the audience outside of the Cuban studio system) don’t know the actors other work or they are actually “unknowns?” None the less, the mixture of the realism in the acting and the down to earth, albeit extraordinary, script keep it easy to watch and not as easy to walk away from. It was easy to gain sympathies for the characters and want to know how things turn out at the end. I will rate this film 3 ½ stars for being not only good, but also highly recommended!
Of course any movie that has sensibilities that extend past the “politically correct” climate that much of the west is mired in will have its detractors. This film has been blamed for being in bad taste for a number of reasons including homophobia. However, in order to find offensive material here, you have to create it on your own. It should be looked at as not having an agenda (to offend, or to shock, etc…) except to use some stereotypical comic behaviors to keep the story from spinning into darkness. (considering it is an apocalyptic film!) There are scenes of spousal cheating, public masturbation, transexuals, gays, bimbos, humiliation, all kinds of stuff, all in small snippets throughout the film. Still, even with all that, it isn’t a very sexual or exploitative film. I will give it 2 on the kink scale, but mainly because it is an adult oriented storyline, and as such, has moments of sexuality in it.