Violeta Went to Heaven (M) 4 stars
Francisca Gavilan, Gilbert Favre
DIRECTOR ANDRES WOOD
REVIEW MARK NAGLAZAS
You’ll like this if you liked Don’t Look Back, Coalminer’s Daughter, Frida, Walk the Line, La Vie En Rose.
Violeta Went to Heaven is on at Joondalup Pines each day at 7.30pm until Sunday.
Towards the end of this biopic of the renowned Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra the film's scarily intense, deeply troubled heroine is asked by a television interviewer what advice she would give to young artists.
"They should write what they want in the rhythms they want, they should experiment with different instruments, they should sit down at the piano and destroy the metrics, they should shout, not sing, blow on a guitar, strum on a trumpet," Parra declares.
"Hate mathematics and embrace chaos. Creation is a bird without a flight plan. It never flies in a straight line."
This is a marvellously succinct summation of Parra's approach to life as well as the guiding principle for director Andres Wood, who uses such a freewheeling approach to telling her story that you can imagine Violeta looking down from heaven and strumming her guitar in approval.
The film's seemingly anarchic approach also gets deep into the soul of Parra who, despite her lifelong support for the downtrodden of Chile and her left-wing politics, is as maddeningly self-involved, chaotic and self- aggrandising as her American rock contemporaries such as Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.
The story is framed by a late- career television interview with Parra (Francisca Gavilan), who took her own life in 1967, and her ill-fated struggle to establish a kind of tavern-cum-community centre on the edges of a city to support herself and her daughter.
Wood takes us back to Violeta's childhood, in which she is terribly neglected by her alcoholic musician father, then moves through her young years travelling through Chile with a musical troupe, a period in which she collected traditional folk songs, honed her skills as a visual artist and a singer and forged the identity she would cling to with admirable ferocity.
Eventually Violeta becomes the lover of Swiss flautist Gilbert Favre (Thomas Durand) and is invited to Europe, where she becomes a figure of some note during the period left-leaning sophisticates embraced folk music from exotic places, especially those in struggles against right-wing governments.
However, Violeta proves to be far too serious-minded for the cafe- society socialists. In one scene she interrupts a performance and gives an admonishing speech to an audience who continued to drink and chatter while she and Gilbert are singing.
While Violeta is considered a bit of a saint and socialist heroine in South America (hence the ironic title) Wood does not put her on a pedestal.
Rather she is shown to be an immensely difficult and self-centred woman who refuses to compromise, who does not acknowledge economic and political realities and does not even have the decency to share credit with man who (according to the movie) loved her.
I had never heard of Violeta Parra before I saw the movie so I can't judge the accuracy of the performance of Gavilan.
However, the ferocity and intensity are utterly mesmerising, and it reminded me of something I've always believed: that those who are successful in the arts (indeed in any field) have a single-mindedness that can be unnerving, off-putting and, ultimately, self-destructive.Violeta Parra was a folkie, a socialist and proletarian hero yet she ends up as solitary and despairing as any drug-addicted jazzman or self-immolating rock star. It's the same old story.
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