SIFF 2024: Saturn Return (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 11, 2024)

The unsolved mysteries of romantic relationships and musical partnerships are commensurate.  For example, what drives two or more musicians to form a band? What sparks the attraction? Why does the band/creative partnership often break up? Why do human relationships in general almost seem engineered to fail? Is the culprit self-sabotage; i.e., does a fear of success and a fear of romantic intimacy represent two sides of the same coin? And most importantly, why are there so many songs written about failed relationships? Such questions form the crux of Isaki Lacuesta and Pol Rodríguez’s nonfiction drama, inspired by the Spanish indie band Los Planetas.

The story focuses on the creation of the band’s third album (1998’s Una Semana en el Motor de un Autobús); a period when the band was in turmoil. The female bassist has recently quit to pursue her interest in another field, the guitarist is struggling with substance abuse, and the lead singer has a creative block. To add to the pressure, they’ve been invited to record their next album in New York with a notable producer. The directors take a similar tack to Gus Van Sant’s Last Days; painting an intimate and impressionistic portrait. Excellent performances by all, accompanied by an atmospheric psychedelia soundtrack.

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