Pedro Castaneda, as Jaime, and Veronica Loren as Lupe in Chris Eska’s August Evening. film’s weak link, as he seems entirely too good to be true. He pursues Lupe with a purity of heart and a delicacy of touch last seen on screen in the 1950s. He’s even a butcher with a conscience. He’s left the butcher shop at Randall’s because he judged the grocery store not careful enough with its cuts. Now he’s working for an artisanal meat-cutter. What a guy! His strategy of wooing Lupe by talking about the villages in Oaxaca where they both grew up is appealing, mostly for the way it lets Loren show how the past wells up inside Lupe, and how carefully she tamps it back down. for her yes that when it finally comes, it feels like a genuine release. Jaime’s case is more complicated. There’s no neat story arc to fit his situation. His problems are more the existential sort: He’s living outside of time and space. He remains a pilgrim throughout the film, and, fittingly, when we last see him, he’s alone, walking on a country road. After surviving a brief spell of humiliating drunkenness, he maintains his dignity with an almost Roman stoicism. Jaime sees disappointment at every turnbut he’s not disappointed. When he finally manages to push Lupe out of the nest, you might think \(and and homeless, has nothing more to live for. But Jaime finds an inner strength and sets out to live the next chapter of his life. Perhaps it will take him back to Mexico, where he grew up. I’d certainly follow him and Eska there. The story I’ve just outlined could just as easily been an interminable drag as a thing of beauty. The storyline doesn’t break any ground. It’s not even inherently interesting. But Eska and cinematographer Yasu Tunida make it sublime. Eska obviously has a tremendous rapport with his untrained actors. Pedro Castatieda has been compared to Robert Duvall \(the reviewer was probably thinking of Duvall’s washed-up country singer in and Castatieda, who drives a tow truck by day, was nominated, along with Don Cheadle and for a 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. For the way he brings a simple man to full life, he deserves the accolades. Eska’s accomplishment goes beyond his work with actors. He wrote and edited the film as well. And for an American filmmaker, he is truly daring when it comes to allowing silence to play its part. Thanks to Eska’s bravery and Tunida’s photography, everything here lingers: the words, the gestures, the late-afternoon light, and the quiet. The cumulative effect of these visual and sonic pauses is deeply spiritual. Jaime walks alone at the end of the film, but he’s not trapped in a loveless universe. He’s on some sort of quest, and he believes that the quest has meaning, even if it’s a meaning he has to create for himself. See www.augustevening.com for screening schedules. Houston writer David Theis is the author of the novel Rio Ganges. DECEMBER 12, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
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