Last night at the Cleveland Film Fest: Finally, a story about Venezuela without Hugo Chavez!

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The blurb about Postcards from Leningrad said that it was a “highly stylized film of life on the run.” That about nailed it. The movie, set in Venezuela during the mid-1960s, follows the lives of guerilla warriors (read: college students who read a Cliff's Notes version of Marx) and their families as they fought for a revolution by walking around in the jungle, eating sardines, and flirting with each other. The story plods, sets up numerous possibilities, but ultimately fails to deliver. ... Now, the disappointment of the film could be a direct result of this movie reviewer growing-up on western cinema. We gringos love a neat ending, or at least some semblance of one. Gringos also love narrative arc, a mysterious thing that can be so frustrating it sometimes forces a writer into a lonesome university library to dissect the Cat in the Hat on Friday night. That might be why Postcards frustrated us so greatly. The movie gets crazier and crazier as it goes. It introduces characters who are fully formed and endearing, but then it shoots us into a different world, where different side stories are introduced and examined, and pretty visuals carry us along the way, and the whole thing starts to get maddening, just like one of its characters, who collects seeds and pretends they are fish and puts them into a drinking glass and swirls them around with his finger to fake insanity, and then magically re-appears in a scuba suit walking hand-in-hand with his daughter for no apparent reason, other than to visualize the imagination of his child, and it really gets the audience, who wants to see where they’re off to but then, Poof! It’s over. Now, most anyone who has descended into the magical realism of Garcia-Marquez knows our South American brethren can weave a yarn. Beyond their narrative arc is the desire beauty for the sake of beauty. And Postcards from Leningrad is a visual treat. So just Netflix the sucker and watch it simply for aesthetic pleasure. It provides that in heaps, and if you just ignore the fact that you have no idea what’s going on, it won’t disappoint. -- Bradley Campbell

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