Liverpool (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 4, 2010 by  

Liverpool” is fascinating and entertaining cinema!  A film that will win over the cineaste who are keen observers of people, of nature and surroundings.  Filmmaker Lisandro Alonso takes you on a journey in which you, the spectator, will interpret the film, your own way.  And for me, that is what makes Lisandro Alonso films and films of the “New Realism” or “New Argentinian Wave” magnificent.  Minimalistic cinema at its very best…  “Liverpool” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 4L/Fortuna Films/ Slot Machine/Eddie Saeta/Black Forest Films GMBH 2008. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Liverpool


DURATION: 85 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Anamorphic (1:85:1), In Spanish with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International


RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2010

Written and Directed by Lisandro Alonso

Screnplay by Salvador Roselli

Produced by Lisandro Alonso, Ilse Hughan, Luis Minarro, Marianne Slot

Co-Producer: Christoph Hahnheiser

Music by Flor Maleva

Cinematography by Lucio Bonelli

Edited by Lisandro Alonso, Sergi Dies, Fernando Epstein, Martin Mainoli

Production Design by Gonzalo Delgado


Juan Fernandez as Farrel

Nieves Cabrera as Trujillo

Giselle Irrazabal as Analia

LIVERPOOL has thrust Argentine director Lisandro Alonso to the forefront of world cinema. Expanding the brooding mystery of his La Libertad (2001) and Los Muertos (Cannes Selection, 2004) into the realm of family drama, the film succeeds with a “stunning grace and total confidence.” (LA Times).

While exploring Tierra del Fuego, Alonso met the stoic Juan Fernández, who worked clearing snow from the streets. Fascinated with his haunting personality, he built the story of LIVERPOOL around Fernández and his isolated town, casting the non-professional in the lead role of Farrel. As the movie opens, he is employed on a massive cargo ship and requests shore leave to visit his sickly mother, who lives in a remote logging town in Tierra del Fuego. Farrel depends on booze and the unkindness of strangers to make the grueling journey southward. Hinting at unspeakable tragedies beneath the surface of Farrel’s impassive face, Alonso sculpts a “bold, successful attempt at a film narrative in which images are everything and words are few.” (LA Times)

With luminous cinematography “in the manner of John Ford and Jean Renoir” (Variety), LIVERPOOL exhibits a striking new cinematic style that is still rooted in the old masters. It’s a rich, mesmerizing work of art.

“New Realism”..  A few filmmakers have been put into this genre and filmmaker Lisandro Alonso is one of those filmmakers who continues to lure the cineaste in with his style of filmmaking.

Some may call it rebelious, others may look at his creativity as one that stands out of the crowd and doesn’t want to be part of that traditional film making machine.

I look at his filmmaking and call it bold, poetic, unique and a man who is passionate about cinema but does not want to compromise and does whatever he wants.  And to me, that is what makes Lisandro Alonso so special.  To watch minimalistic cinema that has hardly any dialogue but yet making films that are profound.

In 2001, his film “La Libertad” was invited for screen at the Cannes Film Festival and he has since created “Los Muertos” (2004) and “Fantasma” (2006).  In 2008, Alonso’s fourth film “Liverpool” has received positive reviews and the film was also an official selections for the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.

And now, his fourth film will be released in America on DVD courtesy of Kino International.

The film begins with the character Farrel (played by Juan Fernandez), a sailor who has not been home to see his family in a very long time.  But since his ship has docked in Tierra del Fuego (an archipelago located on the southernmost tip of South America), he asks his boss if he can have a few days to visit his family.  His boss gives him the go ahead and we watch as Farrel returns home.

We know nothing about the man but we see him walking on foot, visiting a stripclub, getting drunk, riding on a flatbed truck and ending up in a snowy landscape in the middle of nowhere.    We watch Farrell as he arrives in this small town and we wonder if he will visit his family?  We see him eat at an old cantina, leaves and spies at a girl in the window and then drinks himself to a stupor until men drag him out to a man’s home.

The man happens to be his father who is surprised after many decades, his son has chosen to return back home.  We don’t know the circumstances of why he left, we don’t know why his relationship with his family is not that great but what we do know is that his mother is sick and that he has a sister (who happens to be mentally disabled) and born not long after he let home.  She helps the family out with chores on the farm but we don’t know too much about her, other than her first contact with her brother Farrel, she keeps asking him for money.

His mother who is old and sick doesn’t even recognize her own son.  We realize that perhaps the long absence of Farrell, has gone too long and that his existence as a family member is not that important anymore.  His mother doesn’t know him, his father doesn’t know why he’s back and a sister who has no idea who he is (and probably can’t comprehend that she has a brother).

The film splits between its focus on Farrell and the people who love in the small village.


“Liverpool” is presented in color, anamorphic (1:85:1).  A big credit to cinematographer Lucio Bonelli for capturing the winter beauty of the a small village of Tierra del Fuego.  It’s probably a location in the middle of nowhere that has never been filmed on camera for a movie but we get to see this area and its real life settings.  This is normal life for the people that live there.  Taking care of animals, logging, hunting and it’s a realistic portrayal of the area that the character Farrel had once lived and possibly will never go back to again.

But Alonso did do a great job in using non-actors and filming people as they are are in their real life, talking about things that they are usually discuss and just letting these people be themselves.

As for picture quality, the quality is good and a lot of natural light was used on set.  If anything, as Alonso is known for his minimalistic style and because there was no script set in stone, his main focus was to capture the ambiguity of the area.  Not knowing what to expect and capture it on camera.


“Liverpool” is presented in Spanish with optional English subtitles.  Although the film doesn’t have much dialogue, audio is clear and what you hear mostly is  ambiance of the various areas that the filmmaker is at, machinery that can be heard throughout the film.  Little creeks and other noises captured real-time. But for the most part, audio is center and front-channel driven.


“Liverpool” comes with the following special features:

  • Stills Gallery – You can cycle through various still photos from “Liverpool” using your remote or keyboard.
  • Insert – Included is a two-page interview (on the insert) with Lisandro Alonso, director of “Liverpool” which was conducted by R. Emmet Sweeney.

“Liverpool” represents true Lisandro Alonso filmmaking. Minimalistic and realistic approach, stationary camera and capturing the ambiguity for the viewer, a spectator to a small village town, in the middle of nowhere.

The filmmaker does not want you to follow or feel for this sailor, we are mere spectators of seeing this man Farrel going home to the place he was raised but too much time has passed.  No one recognizes him, family doesn’t recognize him and although there is no goodbye, there is no finality, we know that there is nothing for this man at home.  Was he hoping for family and friends to welcome him with open arms?  That’s not important.

An Alonso film, especially “Liverpool” is not your traditional film with a storyline or script, we are just mere spectators of a sailor returning home and then leaving and then camera leaves the sailor to focus on some people in the town and Farrel’s family in their day-to-day routine at home.

This is the life of these people in the mountains.  There is not much to do, most people still listen to the radio and probably don’t have television and most of their work is focused on the surrounding area, trees and logging, catching wildlife and feeding on nature.

For Farrell, he may not be remembered by anyone but its obvious through what we see, the place is still the same but the man inside, who has traveled by boat to all over has changed the most and that connection he has of “home” and “family” no longer exists.

Once again, there is rarely any dialogue in “Liverpool” but yet through images, the film manages to be profound.  The cinematography of capturing the surrounding area during the winter is beautiful but certain scenes goes beyond traditional filmmaking.  For one scene, we watch as Farrell hitches a ride on a logging truck and while most filmmakers would use probably seconds in their film, Alonso shows us a good few minutes of the actual ride.  Another scene in which we see Farrell walking to town or away from town, the camera is stationed where we can see him walking from a distance and it just stays their fixed. No editing shots to shorten the walk from distance to distance, we as a spectator are watching these real-time situations happening and this is the new realism style of filmmaker Lisandro Alonso.

The film is capturing the solitary journey of this sailor through cold weather, a barren land of place left 20-years-ago and thought he may have had a connection but realizes that connection was lost long ago.  A combination of beauty and coldness.

“Liverpool” is obviously a film that may not be for everyone.  But for those who are used to arthouse films and are open to cinematic creativity, the fact that Alonso and a few other filmmakers are driven to not become of the norm of filmmaking but doing things their own way, their own style.  For this film, you are the observer, the spectator and what you come up with in your mind, you are setting the story up and interpreting it in your own way.

As for the DVD, I wish there were interviews or featurettes included on this DVD but fortunately we do get a short interview between Lisandro Alonso and R. Emmet Sweeney (from and still photos from the film.

I have read various interviews and reviews and it seems as if people have come up with their own interpretative reasoning of what “Liverpool” as cinema truly is.  But perhaps it doesn’t need to be anything cerebral but simply a film of observation as Alonso is a big observer himself.  Seeing a person and automatically wondering what kind of live this person has lived and focusing on that person for a shortwhile.

It’s important to know that when Alonso films, he doesn’t have any set plan.   Unlike traditional film where the director knows what is on the script and will go through many cuts to achieve that scene, for Alonso, he has an idea of what may happen but what is portrayed onscreen, he wants to capture those realistic moments and the unexpected.

And just to think that this film had no experienced actors, these were people from the area that were paid to be on a film, not told much and reacted whatever on camera.   What you see are natural responses.  From the elder Nieves Cabrera asked to play the part of the sick mother of Farrell (who was bedridden most of the time), as we see son and mother in a conversation but the senile mother has no idea who he is.  That scene seems natural because it is natural.

The mannerisms of Giselle Irrazabal as Analia the mentally disabled girl.  This is not acting, she’s just reacting as she would in the camera and Alonso and crew didn’t know what they were going to get on camera.  But everything came together quite well in the final cut as she pulls out and dangles a keychain that says “Liverpool”.  She probably has no idea what she is holding but she somehow finds it quite fascinating to her.  Probably not knowing, nor comprehending that the gift was from her father.

Overall, “Liverpool” is fascinating and entertaining cinema!  A film that will win over the cineaste who are keen observers of people, of nature and surroundings.  Filmmaker Lisandro Alonso takes you on a journey in which you, the spectator, will interpret the film, your own way.  And for me, that is what makes Lisandro Alonso films and films of the “New Realism” or “New Argentinian Wave” magnificent.  Minimalistic cinema at its very best…

“Liverpool” is highly recommended!

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