“Zama”: A Long Hard Slough About Colonial Waiting

Zama is about waiting— not the Waiting for Godot or Guffman kind— but the Colonial kind, which is historical, eloquently long and wonderfully filmed, cryptically acted and so broadly elliptical that it could mean nothing while seemingly meaning everything. The kind that is either literary fraud or masterwork.

Zama is the kind of pretentious nonsense that a decent director of some three or four good works, who has nothing left to say, feels compelled to release after a hiatus of ten years. This is Coppola’s Youth Without Youth.

Zama (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is a Colonial Spanish administrator in what is present day Paraguay, waiting for that transfer that never comes. Zama, who is native born but proudly and defiantly identifies as Spanish, spends his time in regal composure staring at the sea, voyeuristically watching the native women bathe, and dilly dallying with a courtesan of blue blood. To escape his ennui, and give the movie some action beat, he gets involved in the hunt for a criminal.

Argentinian Director, Lucrecia Martel, in an attempt to lift herself from her creative stupor, has adapted the most boring Argentine novel she can find (the title novel by Antonio Di Benedetto) and attempted to elevate it into something beyond cinematic pretentiousness. Commendable and her effort received lots of Goya nominations and good reviews. I, however, was not amused, nor convinced it was great cinema.

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