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Review: Gael Garcia Bernal stars in powerful, poetic biopic of Pablo Neruda

By Robert Levin Tribune News Service

The second biopic by Pablo Larraín in theaters now again shows the value of his characteristic method of telling these stories: illuminating truths about a famous subject through a lens in which the form of the movie directly reflects its content.

In his “Jackie,” Jackie Kennedy comes across as a spectral presence, drifting through a haunted White House in the wake of her husband’s murder, and the movie captures something essential about the mythology that’s shrouded our sense of her.

“Neruda” – about governmental inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), hunting for Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), who has become an enemy of the state in post-World War II Chile – endeavors to show the awesome power of Neruda’s words by emphasizing the innermost thoughts and perceptions of the man pursuing him.

Larraín and screenwriter Guillermo Calderón shape the movie as Peluchonneau’s story, in which the inspector is effectively a character in a fiction created by Neruda, so that the movie captures the impact of important artists on a level that’s deeper than a mere recapping of a series of facts.

Bathed in expressive natural light and bestowed with a sense of constant movement, the movie also pulls even further back from the specifics of Neruda’s story to depict a battle for the essence of a nation at war with itself.

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