A poetic biopic on the Chilean poet and bohemian Pablo Neruda

If nothing else, the past 12 months have been great for director Pablo Larraín. After last February’s deeply disturbing The Club and the high-profile Jackie in December, Larraín’s Neruda is a dreamy, self-reflexive biopic of famed Chilean politician, poet, and all-around bohemian Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco). The picture covers a brief but crucial period of its subject’s life, when Neruda and his wife, Delia (Mercedes Morán), went into hiding after his open protest against the imprisonment of Communist miners angered the incoming fascist government. Neruda makes his way through the Chilean underground without causing too much of a dent in his lifestyle — there’s still debauchery and orgies — while being pursued by barely competent policemen and self-styled noir gumshoe Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), who also unreliably narrates. The picture begins to twist in on itself in the second act, including some of the most egregrious rear-projection work since To Catcha Thief — complete with cutting between location and studio footage within a scene — but where that was Hitchcock having no truck with “realism,” here it plays into Óscar beginning to question his own reality. Neruda is ultimately about as historically accurate as Miles Ahead, but like that film, it’s also more satisfying and poetically truthful than had it just related events as they happened.

Rated R.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

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