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Archive for the ‘Argentinean Film’ Category

Mount Bayo / Cerro Bayo

Posted by keith1942 on April 1, 2011

Inez and Lucas

Bradford International Film Festival, 2011.

Argentina 2010, in colour, 86 minutes. Directed by Victoria Galardi. 

Mount Bayo is set in Patagonia and the town is the base for s ski-resort in season. The Festival Brochure described it as a ‘droll, sharply-observed chronicle of family lives’. The family in question is that of Juana (Adela Gleijer) who at the start of the film attempts suicide by gassing herself. She is found and hospitalised, but is now suffering from brain damage. Her daughter Marta (Adriana Barraza) and he husband Eduardo have to cope with this catastrophe, and care for their two teenage offspring. Lucas works at the local ski-resort whilst Inez (Ines Effron) is still at school. Marta’s sister Mercedes (Veronica Llinas) travels from Buenos Aires to join the family.

Marta is the most sympathetic character as she worries over and cares for her comatosed mother. The rest of the family are consumed by personal pre-occupations. Mercedes is in debt and happens to hear that Juana may have won at the local Casino. Eduardo is hoping to sell of a valuable plot of land that actually belongs to Juana. Lucas needs two thousand Euros in order to take part in a European ski championship. Inez wishes to win the contest for the winter season Queen of the resort.

The characters fret, and occasionally confide in each other whilst they [like dogs] sniff the various prospects. These become slightly complicated by two other characters. Romy, a past passion of Mercedes now a solicitor. And Paquito, who sells flowers at the local cemetery where Juana’s husband is buried.

The changing positions of the characters are rather like a complicated quadrille and achieve a continuing fascination. Despite the rather macabre situation there are moments of real humour.

The plot developments are somewhat predictable, and never become completely ironic. The ending is partly ambiguous.

 

The production values are good and the settings are attractive. The film is good enough to absorb and enjoy.

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The Secret in Their Eyes / El secreto de sus ojos.

Posted by keith1942 on September 9, 2010

Spain / Argentina 2009.

Directed by Juan José Campanella. Scripted by Eduardo Sacheri and Juan José Campanella from Sacheri’s novel La pregunta de sus ojos. With English subtitles.

The film seems like an accomplished Argentinean variant on familiar thriller stories with noir undertones. However, I felt that there were within this substantial metaphoric treatments of very particular Argentinean traumas. The main story of the film is set in 1974, only two years before the Junta coup and dictatorship: a period when right-wing death squads and anti-democratic conspiracies by the dominant class were already well underway. Whilst the film focuses on the unravelling of a murder and an intertwined love story, many of the character situations appear like metaphors for the terrible events already underway in Argentina.

Warning – the following contains detailed plot information.

The film opens on the protagonist Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) who is writing a novel that dramatises his involvement in an investigation into the horrific rape and murder of Liliana Coloto (Carla Quevedo). At the same time Benjamin was developing an unfulfilled love for his superior at the Justice department, Irene Menédez Hastings (Soledad Villamil). The other three important characters are Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), a colleague at the office with an alcohol problem: Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) the husband of the murdered woman: and Isodoro Gómez (Javier Godino), a suspect in the case.

The film opens with a montage of flashbacks, memories of the protagonist. One set shows a man and woman bidding farewell at the railway station: the other a man and woman sharing breakfast. It did not see clear to me whether these were the same couple or not: we later discover that the railway couple are Ricardo and Irene, and the breakfast couple Morales and his wife, Liliana.

This opening set out the centrality of memory in the film’s story. This might be one way that the film withholds information and confuses the audience. But the audience also come to realise that memories are fragmentary, become intertwined and are possibly unreliable. Morales at one point remember that Liliana made him a lemon drink at breakfast, then wonder if it might not have been orange.

An important aspect of the relationship between Ricardo and Irene is that he comes from a working class background whilst she belongs to a family with fortune and influence. This is possibly the factor that continually inhibits Ricardo from declaring his feeling for Irene, even when she appear to be trying to encourage him to do so. The class divide is important in plot terms, but even more important in that the reaction in Argentina was quite explicitly about maintaining the rule of the bourgeoisie against working class democracy.

Ricardo’s investigation is hampered by another clerk in the department, Romano (Mariano Argento), who is later exposed as having links to death squads and conspiracies. This ties the film’s story into the actual events of the 1974 – 1976. Ricardo overcomes the obstacles, with help from both Sandoval and Irene, and a confession is extorted from Gomez. He is however later released because he is useful to the rightwing conspirators. This release produces trauma for both Morales and Ricardo. It also endangers their lives. In fact, it is Sandoval who dies in a sacrificial gesture that saves Ricardo.

These events clearly generate a strong sense of guilt in the protagonist. One that would seem to mirror the guilt felt by those who survived rather than perished under the dictatorship.

The death of Sandoval also causes Ricardo to move from the capital Buenos Aires to the remote Northwest of the Country. This exile lasts most of the twenty-five years and is followed by his return to Buenos Aires. In a daring revelation he then discovers that Morales has managed to kidnap Gomez and imprison him in a makeshift jail. An equivalent sentence to the ‘life’ that Ricardo promised Morales the killer of Liliana would receive.

This 25-year break brings the setting of the film, presumably, to 1999. But is also seems like another metaphor for the ‘dark night’; through which Argentina itself has passed. The films’ resolution suggests that the passing of that night enables social intercourse to resume, epitomised by the ending where we assume that Ricardo will finally declare his love for Irene.

Love, desire, lust are among the ‘secrets’ depicted in the eyes of the protagonists. Looks form an important set of motifs in the film. Ricardo firsts begins to suspect Gomez when he sees a couple of group photographs: whilst most of the group smile at the camera, Gomez looks diagonally across at Liliana. This look is paralleled in a photograph of Irene’s party to to announce her wedding [to another man, not Ricardo]: whilst the group smile at the camera, Ricardo looks diagonally across at Irene. In other scenes in the film the cameras closes in to focus on a look: of Irene towarda Ricardo: and of Ricardo towards Morales. Poignantly, in one of the last scenes, as Ricardo watches Morales tend Gomez in the makeshift prison, he will not or cannot look directly at his prisoner. Gomez plaintively pleads of Ricardo, “at least ask him to talk to me!”: but to no avail.

Looks are also important in the recurring scenes where Ricardo visits Irene’s office. On these occasions Irene, at the mention of ‘talk’, asks if he wishes to close the door. There are the only one or two scenes in which a door is actually closed. The last is the occasion when Ricardo visits Irene [presumably] to declare his love: [in the previous scene he has written ‘I love you’.] The nice touch is that we, the audience, are locked out, as the camera remains this side of the closed door. This also feels like another metaphor. Legal business, including murder, is discussed with the door open – and the other ears in the Justice building are able to follow what is said. However, the personal and private appears to remain within a sanctum where such surveillance does not occur.

Settings and space are important in the film. The office of Ricardo and Sandoval is a sort of forecourt through which Irene passes every morning to her inner sanctum. The office is loaded with files and folders, usually stitched together in an old-fashioned technique. And there are typewriters: one running gag being a model on which the ‘a’ does not work. Irene and Ricardo meet several times in one of the cool, airy and antique Buenos Aires coffee bars. Coffee and pastries are an important ritual before discussion. A particularly chilling contrast is provided when Irene and Ricardo [after confronting Romano] share a lift with the released Gomez: he deliberately pulls out his gun and reloads it before them.

 Ricardo’s flat is extremely well ordered and neat. We do not see Irene’s but Ricardo opines that it is ‘completely different’. Nor do we see the home of Sandoval or Gomez, though we see the rural house of the latter’s aunt. We do see Morales small flat: but it is a scene disfigured by violence and blood. Late in the film we see Morales rural home, with its jerry built jail at the back.

A number of very fine films have dealt with the different periods of reactionary political control in Argentina’s history. The Secrets in Their Eyes would seem to be the latest example. The upbeat ending suggests some sort of closure over those terrible events, at least in the personal drama of the film. But the image of Morales and Gomez in a secret jail suggests that much remains unresolved: that there are still powerful traumas in the consciousness of Argentineans.

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