The Puccios are a seemingly respectable Buenos Aires family living comfortably in an Argentina of the 1980s under the dictatorship of the military junta.
But, like the country itself, respectability is only skin deep – patriarch Arquimedes (a menacing performance from Guillermo Francella – The Secret in Their Eyes, Rudo & Cursi) heads a criminal gang of kidnappers and extortionists made up predominantly of his family.
It’s all based on a true story and the source material is rich in detail and potential – but sadly any lack of suspense is lost as director Pablo Trapero (Carancho, Lion’s Den) choses a matter-of-fact, somewhat dull approach. Disappointing.
Intense, challenging, absorbing and shot in black and white: Embrace of the Serpent is no easy ride.
Two European scientists, forty years apart, are helped by the Amazonian shaman Karamakate to find a sacred healing plant. The two journeys are interwoven as we experience the changes along the river banks of the Amazon: the destruction of the indigenous way of life through the colonialist incursions of the rubber barons and catholic church.
It may be a touch too long at just over two hours, but it’s a heartfelt, stately journey from Colombian writer/director Ciro Guerra (The Wind Journeys, Wandering Shadows) based on the diaries of the two scientists.
Six subversive tragi-comic unconnected tales of revenge – exhilarating filmmaking that is, at times, genuinely funny. But, like reading a book of short stories, it left me suspended and a tad dissatisfied – little depth or character development. Crammed into two hours, the tales are brief – and a little relentless (maybe one too many?).
But its anarchic humour, albeit verging on the sick, is laugh-out-loud, described perfectly by one critic as a mix of Almodovar (the producer) and Tarantino.