Background: The Film Movement series has proven to be one of the best buys in contemporary foreign movie sales in recent years, offering some really great movies for a reasonable costs, including many that you wouldn't have heard of except for the film festivals many of them scoop awards up at. Each of their releases provides a main feature and a short film of note, ranging from all kinds of subjects and even including documentaries on occasion. Today's review is on a hilarious little effort I had never heard of called The Great Match (La Gran Final), a joint Spain/Germany title about the shrinking world we live in and how some events are becoming nearly universal in their appeal to people with little else in common (on the surface at least).
Movie: The Great Match is the title of the movie, referring to the World Cup Soccer match between Brazil and Germany back in 2002. I know that if I were asked what sport is most popular in the USA, I'd answer either baseball or football (the American version) but around the world, soccer seems to be far more popular to people, perhaps as a legacy to the former colonies established by the British and others but certainly no less powerful as a result. Whatever the need to watch or engage in competitive sports is for a lot of people, there seems to be few cultures escaping the phenomenon and with the advent of television and radio, the world has become a much smaller place in this regard too.
The movie follows three small groups of people, one in the desert sands of Niger, another in the Brazilian rainforest, and the third in the wastelands of Mongolia. Each of them are manned by people that will do almost anything to watch the soccer match of the big game and each encounter similar problems that further show exactly how disparate cultures are becoming more homogenized as a result of technology meeting a fundamental need for sporting events. Personally, I've never seen the appeal of group sports but having heard friends fussed at by wives and girlfriends for watching a couple of games on a Sunday afternoon, I've noticed that the appeal is there, even if I can't explain it as thoroughly as I'd like to.
In any case, each of the three tribes has issues with finding a television in working order, getting clear reception, and running into trouble of the human kind; be it from authorities, those who don't share the inclination to watch, or finding a reliable power source to keep the game running. Even if you don't understand the languages or read the subtitles, the story tells itself as the troubles cause tempers to flare and people to react harshly towards one another, the magic of the so-called boob-tube to calm people down once sitting before it. I suppose in some ways, this bodes ill for humanity in that the great pacifier seems to work its charms on such a wide array of people but the bright side is that it proves undeniably that people are indeed people with much in common, giving us all a chance to eventually see eye to eye (or not, depending on what team each group roots for).
Also telling was how some of the women reacted to the event, much like my beer chugging friends' women seemed to find fault with everything they do when transfixed in front of a TV with a sporting event on. Claiming the men to be helpless, lame, or otherwise ineffectual hunters as the men emulated their heroes on the small screen in words or action, I was impressed with how "right" director Gerardo Olivares captured the mood of the social dynamic. The majority of actors in the movie were seen as truly into getting to see the match too, instead of looking like they were acting, though the possibility exists that it was all fictional or otherwise not based on real life observations (people get worked over their soccer all over the place, transcending country, culture, and language). To me, the parts leading up to the match were more interesting in terms of what everyone went through to make it happen, if only because once the game started, they lacked any motivation to do anything else but I suspect that was part of the point Gerardo was making. For the first half or more of the movie, I found myself laughing at my own behaviors from the past in this regard as much as those on the screen, making it worth at least a Rent It or better. With a little more polishing up (and if there had been anywhere to go with the observation driving the theme of the movie), it would have been even better but it was the kind of quirky comedy you simply don't see all that often; one that hits home but shows how "home" is a lot more widespread than we typically think of. Here's what the cover said:
"This film tells the adventurous story of three heroes, none of whom have ever met, but who nevertheless have two things in common: firstly, they all live in the farthest-flung corners of the planet and, secondly, they are all three determined to see on TV the final in Japan of the 2002 World Cup between Germany and Brazil. The protagonists in this 'global' comedy are: a family of Mongolian nomads, a camel caravan of Tuareg in the Sahara, and a group of Indios in the Amazon. They all live about 500 kilometres away from the next town – and the next television – making their task a particularly daunting one. Nevertheless, these inventive people possess the resourcefulness and the willpower to achieve their goal."
Picture: The Great Match was presented in the usual 1.85: ratio anamorphic widescreen color as shot by director Gerardo Olivares. The technical limitations of some of the footage were outweighed by the way the movie sucked me into not noticing flaws, at least when I first watched it. The grain, minor video noise, and lighting were not so problematic that I expected it to look better but given the nature of the film, I think it was better looking than I expected. The colors were slightly washed out and the lighting uneven, but the textures of all that was showcased before the camera were exceptionally well done for the type of comedy this movie was geared to be. I have not had the chance to compared this version to the Region 2 version but suffice it to say that the technical matters did not harm my viewing pleasure at all.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital enhanced languages listed as: Kazajo (Mongolia), Tamashek (Niger), and Tupi (Brasil) on the back cover, all with easily readable English language subtitles. There were times when I wondered what was going on or if the translations meant something different (due to literal translations or an area where some cultural context was missing) but like the slightly uneven pacing of the movie (some of the tribes had extended periods where they would be focused on longer), the overall effect was decent at telling the story, even if there was no separation between the channels to speak of and the music was generic.
Extras: Like all Film Movement titles, this one had a very short film, this time called Elephants Never Forget (AKA: Los Elefantes Nunca Olividan), a moving story about revenge and human frailty from director Lorenzo Vigas Castes. In it, a boy intent on evening up a score with a man that hurt his mother finds out how easily it is to become like those we hate when blinded by hate. There was also the usual trailers and cast/crew biographies (I assume the cover was double sided by the company didn't send one so I have no idea for sure).
Final Thoughts: The Great Match as released by Film Movement was entertaining and engaging on several levels, especially at first. It ran out of steam towards the middle due to the way the director seemed to paint himself into a corner, but perhaps part of the idea was in showing how once the event was over, there really wasn't much left to do except return to their regular lives. In short though, The Great Match did make some pointed remarks about technology, humanity, and the world we live in so give it a look.