Review by Sean Boelman
Renaud Gauthier has gained a bit of a cult following for his unhinged genre cinema throwbacks, and while they certainly cater to an extremely niche audience, there is an undeniable charm to them. His third feature, Punta Sinistra is no different, an exercise in micro-budget filmmaking that is a wondrous recreation of a particular era of film.
The movie tells the story of a journalist who sets out on a quest to find the lost cargo of a ship that mysteriously crashed on the coast of Mexico years before. Like the ‘70s movies to which the film pays homage, the storyline doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s easy enough to get absorbed and go along for the ride.
With a runtime of only sixty-three minutes, it’s a bit odd that the movie manages to feel both slow and hurried at the same time. Like a lot of Gauthier’s movies, it almost feels as if he had a few awesome sequences in mind and built the film around them. And as a result, there is a lot of dead weight here.
That said, those sequences that were clearly Gauthier’s focus absolutely rule and were worth the price of admission alone. Unfortunately, those all come in the last twenty minutes or so. It’s an adventure movie that isn’t all that adventurous, as nearly all of the excitement is confined to the final act.
The film is also lacking a compelling protagonist to really drive the story along. That isn’t to say that the character isn’t likable, but he doesn’t have the heroic quality to him that would have made the movie tick. However, what it lacks in a protagonist, it makes up for with a wild cast of supporting characters.
It’s hard to fault (or credit) the actors for any of the film’s success or lack thereof, because all of the dialogue has been dubbed. This is obviously a very intentional decision on the part of Gauthier to replicate the Italian style of genre filmmaking that is such a pivotal inspiration for this and his other movies, but it does feel a tad gimmicky.
Regardless, Gauthier’s homage works extremely well in a visual sense. It’s obvious that his budget was limited, but given the type of film that this is meant to replicate, it’s fitting. Everything that looks cheap looks cheap for a reason, and it gives the whole affair a welcome feeling of campiness.
Punta Sinistra likely won’t win any new fans for Renaud Gauthier, but for those who are already a fan of his style, it’s another fun outing. He clearly made exactly the movie he wanted to make, and the right audience will find it and love it.
Punta Sinistra screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs July 13 through August 3.