Five Argentinean Gazes at the Venice Festival

in 61st Venice Film Festival

by Diego Batille

Familia rodante / Rolling Family (Pablo Trapero). Venezia Orizzonti.

“Familia rodante” is a small and interesting road-movie that follows the journey of the twelve members of a family from Buenos Aires and across the entire Argentinean Mesopotamia. The family travels in a 1958 Viking mobile home to Misiones to attend the wedding of a relative. Filled with vicissitudes, twists and turns, revelations, accidents and romance, the trip gives way to the coming out of secrets and lies, miseries and frustrations, resentment and feelings that had been repressed for years.

Starring Graciana Chironi (the 84-year-old grandmother of the director), Liliana Capurro and Carlos Resta, “Familia rodante” is a choral film that avoids the exaggerations of false realism and shows new facets of the director, such as his ability for comedy or the sensibility for tackling teenage sexual awakening.

Though not all the conflicts reach the same dramatic intensity, the film corroborates and amplifies Trapero’s narrative quality. Take the staging of a tour-de-force such as the shooting of almost the entire storyline inside a set in permanent movement. The cinematography by the talented Guillermo Nieto changes its nuances as the journey unfolds and the geography -just like the human relationships – mutate towards more complex levels, rarefied and wild. Leaving aside certain irregularities in the script, the director of “Mundo Grúa” and “El bonaerense” shows his skill for coaching his actors (many of them with no previous experience), and manages to reach a degree of verisimilitude, truth and intensity that steams out of every line of the dialogue. And that’s something very difficult to achieve on the big screen.

Un mundo menos peor / A World Less Worst (Alejandro Agresti). Venezia Orizzonti.

This tragicomedy focuses on the traces of the last Argentine military dictatorship and refers to previous films of Agresti, such as the plot of “El amor es una mujer gorda” and the rural gaze seen in “El viento se llevó lo que”.

The story takes place in the coastal resort of Mar de Ajó, during low season. Isabel (Galán) and her two daughters, of different ages and different parents, Leticia (Julieta Cardinali), and the little Beba (Agustina Noya)- arrive at the place in search of “el Cholo” (Carlos Roffé), Isabel’s ex-husband, whom they believed was dead.

Once there they discover that “Cholo” has a new life as a baker, aided by his friend Mario (Ulises Dumont). The film alternates heartfelt and well-crafted sequences with others in which the pretentious and wordy dialogue creates a feeling of artificiality, also amplified by the omnipresent and pompous musical score by French composer Philippe Sarde. The moments of comic relief brought about by Mex Urtizberea and Agresti’s typical talent for mise-en-scene and camerawork add up to the film’s assets.

El amor (primera parte) / Love (First Part). (Alejandro Fadel, Martín Mauregui, Santiago Mitre and Juan Schnitman). Settimana della Critica.

Four young directors from the Universidad del Cine, all of them under-25 shot this tragicomedy together about the first passions, their splendor, the cohabitation, the disappointment, the crisis and the final break up of a twenty-something-couple. All of it over two years and with today’s Buenos Aires as context.

With an ironic sense of humour right out of “Balnearios”, by Mariano Llinás (who not by chance happens to be the producer of this project as well as the mentor of many of these filmmakers), “El amor….” comes across as one of those portraits that conveys authenticity and generates unavoidable identification from the viewers. All of it is enjoyed with the lightness and spontaneity of a narrative conceived with intelligence and sensibility. It’s only fair to point out that not all the vignettes are equally interesting, or that the actress Leonora Balcarce is far more charismatic and irreverent than Lucian Cáceres, the male leading figure. Yet, this almost clinical dissection of the different phases of love places directors Fadel-Mauregui-Mitre-Schnitman among those to take into serious consideration on the endless path of the so-called New Argentine Cinema.

Una de dos / One of Two (Alejo Taube). Settimana della Critica.

The debut film of Alejo Taube is way more than promising. A choral story on the economic, political, moral and spiritual crisis suffered by a town in the province of Buenos Aires during the outburst of December 2001, “Una de dos” shows a director confident of the strength and credibility of his social fresco. The film’s protagonist is “El Rubio” (Jorge Sesán, from “Pizza, birra, faso”), a young man into trafficking of forged money inside a powerful organization as a way to get out of a crisis that affects all the townspeople. But the film is neither limited to the police story mold nor to the mere exposition of those tragic days (conveyed through television archive footage and a choir of voice over, always heard in the background).

Instead, it finely focuses on the tiny observations that make everyday life and on the manner the social disaster took its toll in the relationships between friends and neighbors.

Parapalos / Pin Boy (Ana Poliak). Venezia Mezzanotte.

The director of “Que vivan los crotos” and “La fe del volcán” immerses herself into the hardships in the life of Ringo, an introverted young man who works in a bowling alley. The “Pin Boy” spends endless working days in a tiny space behind the pins, and sleeps during the day until it’s time to get back to work. Poliak shows in detail the lives of these anonymous beings, without ever unnecessarily stressing the hard working conditions. The director and co-writer (alongside Santiago Loza and actor Adrián Suárez) would rather center on anecdotes and feelings of her characters.

In this regard, the best fleshed-out character is Nippur (Roque Chappy), a lovable anarchist that has been threatening to quit the job for 20 years now. The cinematography by Alejandro Fernández Mouján and Víctor “Kino” González is another of the many assets of a film that may irritate some viewers because of its arid and cut-and-dried nature. Nonetheless, the film ultimately prevails and succeeds because of Poliak’s rigor, daring boldness and sheer skill to discover a great story where nobody seems to see it.