Apr 17, 201204:18 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Houston Festival Offers A Western Of A Different Flavor
Maybe you’ve already seen a slew of Spaghetti westerns. But have you ever had a hankering for a Chilean western? If so, the 2012 edition of WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival has something you might want to sample: Sal (Salt), an offbeat import – with Spanish dialogue and English subtitles – that will screen Tuesday and Wedenesday at H-Town’s AMC Studio 30.
The plot pivots on Sergio (Feliz Martinez), a budding screenwriter and diehard Spaghetti western buff – his cat is named Clint! – who tries to sell a neo-western screenplay to producers in his native Spain. Trouble is, the producers are less than impressed.
“Even the names of the characters are terrible,” says one. Another suggests that, since Sergio has set his scenario in the desert, he should include exploitable elements like “camels, an oasis, and some naked chicks dancing salsa.” Sergio objects, noting that his screenplay takes place in the desolate Atacama Desert of northern Chile. All well and good, responds a third producer, but the screenplay “seems written by somebody who has never been there.”
Abashed but undaunted, Sergio packs his bag and jets to Chile, in the vague hope of finding inspiration for a rewrite in some small town like the one in his screenplay. Unfortunately, he finds much more than he bargained for in a remote and windswept community where he’s inexplicably mistaken for a tough hombre named Diego.
The good news: Diego was the lover of Maria (Javiera Contador), a lusty lady who credulously accepts Sergio as a substitute. The bad news: Diego was the enemy of a Victor (Sergio Hernandez), a crimelord who holds a grudge – and, much worse, employs gunmen.
By turns satirical and exciting, deadly serious and absurdly comical, Sal plays very much like the sort of Spaghetti western homage that might been written by someone like Sergio (if only Sergio could, well, you know, actually write). Directing from his own fanciful script, filmmaker Diego Rougier alternates between reality (or some reasonable semblance thereof) and fantasy, rendering key scenes from Sergio’s rewrite-in-progress as sometimes ironic, sometimes inspiring counterpoint to the screenwriter’s increasingly desperate attempts to live up (or down) to Diego’s bad-guy rep. It’s kinda-sorta complicated – but well worth the effort to puzzle out for a couple hours.
On the other hand: If you’re in the mood for a more conventional western WorldFest/Houston festival has Heathens & Thieves -- all about outlaws seeking stolen gold on a ranch owned by Chinese settlers – on tap this weekend. We’ll tell you more about that one tomorrow.