There are many portraits of human crisis in the annals of cinema. Many take the form of a series of events being heaped upon the main character until the cathartic moment when they either survive their ordeal, or they don’t. But Uruguayan filmmaker Federico Veiroj has made a career out of writing perfect opportunities for his characters to come completely undone and then not going for that catharsis, in the process expressing an idea of real weight that informs the modernity of the common people: the inability to fall under pressure, because there’s no time for crisis. Played by Gonzalo Delgado, the title character of Belmonte is a painter whose work mostly consists of abstractions and exaggerations of male nudes. Belmonte is recently divorced and juggles his time between painting, selling his paintings, and traveling to galleries with his daughter, Celeste (Olivia Molinaro Eijo), who’s on the verge of puberty. Particularly memorable in Veiroj’s film are the sequences in which Celeste sees (but first guesses) Belmonte’s obsession with the male genitalia. This awakening is backdropped by Belmonte trying to exhort his daughter’s artistic proclivities, an effort to connect with her that stems from the strained relationship he has with his own father.
Uruguayan filmmaker Federico Veiroj has made a career out of writing perfect opportunities for his characters to come completely undone and then not going for that catharsis, in the process expressing an idea of real weight that informs the modernity of the common people: the inability to fall under pressure, because there’s no time for crisis.
Veiroj only hints at Belmonte’s sexuality. Nothing is defined explicitly, there’s only the way in which the man looks at his father as he follows him around, or who he chooses to talk to on the bus, or which people he meets and strikes up conversation with in specific places. These scenes provide the 74-minute film with various kinds of narrative beats. But at the core here is the relationship between Belmonte and Celeste — which is condensed in one affecting sequence, during which the two take a trip to a nearby island and, at one point, Leo Masliah’s song “Imaginate m’hijo” plays. The song is about a father talking to his son about what he should expect from life; it ends with the father realizing that soon his son will have to say the same things to his own kids. Subtle dramatic moments like this tend to complement the film’s understated camerawork and somewhat subdued, pastel-accentuating palette, which both standout in a landscape of Latin American cinema that usually favors attention-grabbing visuals. Veiroj’s approach is very particular, especially when it comes to exploring the canvases, the walls, the places dedicated to art. Belmonte isn’t primarily about the world of art, or even about what inspires an artist. Instead, it’s a film that delves into the harried experience of personal doubt, and how it can gradually bond people.
You can currently stream Federico Veiroj’s Belmonte on Netflix.