Beloved by his country's Marxists, Christians, social democrats, and Fidel Castroas well as despised by the right-wingers, middle class, and especially Richard Nixon (who reportedly called him an S.O.B. and a bastard) the controversial Chilean president is ultimately painted sympathetically, and quite convincingly so, in this artful 2004 doc from Patricio Guzmán (The Battle of Chile). Richer than a mere posthumous portrait, the film is a wistful testimony to a faded political ideal, eulogized by Allende's surviving friends, family, and loyalists, and Guzmán's own soft-spoken narration. "How was he both revolutionary and democrat?" asks the director, citing many of the ways that Allende's not-that-radical blend of socialism succeededincluding the nationalization of big business, the redistribution of land, and the vast reformation of Chile's welfare system. Via old photos and archival footage, some of it shot by Guzmán decades prior, El Chico's charisma comes through, no more so than when his 1972 U.N. speech about the dangerous rise of multinationals earned him a standing ovation. Humanizing though it may befriends reflect on his humor and love of chicken casserolesthe film sidesteps much of the criticism against Allende in his late career (that he mishandled the economy and tended toward the autocratic, for starters). But Edward Korry, the former U.S. ambassador to Chile who talks about the Nixon-plotted conspiracies against Allende, only helps to martyr him more. (Salvador Allende is screening as part of Anthology's series, "An Urgent Cinema: Classic & Radical Latin American Cinema.")
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