THE BATTLE OF CHILE: THE STRUGGLE OF AN UNARMED PEOPLE, PART II (Patricio Guzmán, Chris Marker et al., 1977)

We hear the tumult in the street in Santiago before we see it; the opening credits of El golpe de estado, the second part of La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas (top prize again, Grenoble), are blocking our view. The first part begins similarly, but in this instance the procedure formally resonates; for, with the launch of “el golpe”—the coup—against him, Salvador Allende does not quite “see” the people—about a third of the electorate had voted for him—who are so willing to defend his presidency at ultimate personal risk to themselves. Rather, he focuses on the Chilean legislature in pursuit of a course for resolving the crisis that would not “de-legitimize” his presidency nearly three years after his historic election. Ironically, the U.S.-backed Christian Democrats, who continue to oppose him, meet with Allende, to give the appearance of underway negotiations, only after the Catholic Church publicly prays that such meetings take place. Politics are merely forestalling the inevitable military ousting of Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president.
     As with the first part of Patricio Guzmán’s monumental black-and-white documentary, light gray predominates; but this time there is at least one jolting scene in which the faces of people in the street are dimmed to darkness.
     Speeches and public pronouncements by all sorts of individuals and groups now become the film’s principal mode of content; this, added to the continuing voiceover narration, creates a stream of talk that eventually makes the announcement of Allende’s death a seemingly slipped-in thing. Ironically, one might almost miss the momentous news: Augusto Pinochet has seized power.
     Cumulatively, the second part is overwhelmingly sad, tremendously moving.
     From Cuba, Chile, France.

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