Orozco is a middle aged mortician who lives and works in Columbia. Every day, new bodies arrive at his morgue. Some have died of old age, others from disease, but many are victims of the near-constant violence that grips so many of the poorest areas in Columbia. Kiyotaka Tsurisaki's Orozco the Embalmer explores the world in which he exists, alternating between moments of brutal carnage and sequences of banal existence.
Less a gore obsessed 'death film' than a grimy and verite-esque expose of just how awful life in Columbia can be. Tsurisaki's often jittery video camera unceremoniously accompanies Orozco through his daily routine, painting a picture of a man who relates to death as something that's merely another facet of how the world works, devoid of put upon emotions and sentimentalities. What may initially appear cold and heartless about Orozco is what ultimately makes him relatable. He's just another guy with a repetitive job who has to make the most of his life, despite its being less than ideal. His dispassionate attitude towards the majority of his corpses, rather than coming off as mean spirited, instead serves as a humanizing trait as he jokes about them, occasionally and excitedly coming across a new challenge. Violence and suffering transforms into science and artistry in his hands.
Tsurisaki's wandering camera and avoidance of talking heads, along with his almost fetishistic examination of the institutionalized death trade calls to mind a low-fi Frederick Wiseman. There's no critical distance, but personalization is staunchly avoided. Even the bloodiest moments are handled with an equal blending of excited curiosity and emotional uncertainty. It's rare to find a documentary that's able to turn death into something so clinical and unsentimental, yet framing it in a way that makes the viewer care so much about the environment in which it's set. Orozco is a special experience and one not to be forgotten.