American Cup #3 of 4 Initial Matches: ‘Ufa con el sexo’ (1968) vs. ‘La estrategia del caracol’ (1993)

https://overlookhotelfilm.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/a90c8-ufa2bcon2bel2bsexo2.jpg?w=320&h=180

‘Ufa con el sexo’ (1968, Rodolfo Kuhn) Ooph with the sex

vs.

https://i1.wp.com/i.ytimg.com/vi/oUNOYp5yYz0/hqdefault.jpg

‘La estrategia del caracol’ (1993, Sergio Cabrera) The Snail’s Strategy

The third match of this tournament (or cup) of Latin American cinema pits a stronghold of International Cinema like Argentina against a mostly unknown and unprotected cinema of Colombia, again a country I have little information regarding their films and their spread in the world, and that is troubling, specially after hearing the tribulations that the chosen movie for today had to go through. So, today once again I have a friend and critic helping me out with the choosing of a film, this time for Argentina, the always funny @jotafrisco (on twitter, follow him if you know spanish) after being asked what is, according to him, the best film ever made in Argentina, he responded with this obscure little gem that isn’t even available completely, but we will talk about that later. He didn’t hesitate in naming a film that is mostly unknown, but for Colombia I had to go with the opinion of the majority, as a poll of critics mentioned this movie as the best that their country has ever produced in all of its history, the highly popular film that won over a generation of Colombians and demonstrated the power that they had in terms of filmmaking. So, what will be the result this time? Will the overpowering cinematic culture of Argentina go to the extent of this obscure film or will the most popular and better received film of their time work its magic through me? Let’s find out.

‘Ufa con el sexo’ is a obscure film that was somewhat released back in 1968 (its release story is a bit shady) but was shelved because of censorship, and it was first seen again in 2002 after a restoration made by people who love the history of Argentinian cinema. The issue behind the censorship was the fact that the Argentinian society at the time was still highly conservative and it’s the main focus in this film that points right at their nature of being business-minded instead of being preoccupied about the people that surround them or even their families, as they only care about the money they expend and the money they can get out of any situation. The state of the film today is very poor, as the restoration was good but the damage can still be seen, but that still doesn’t deprive from the absolute fun that this movie provides with every minute that passes. The movie starts with a mock-up of a couple of conquistadors from Spain that are exploring the marshy landscape of Argentina, when they are interrupted by a young woman in a tight dress and a microphone and asks them the question: “what do you think about women?” and he responds: “women, well, the woman… is an object”, and thus starts a series of vignettes starring the same interviewer who goes from asking people in the street what they think about love and then what they think about sex, signaling in a way in these short documentary sections that sex is still a taboo in the common society and love, well, love can be “anything you want it to be”, as she concludes before ending the segment and the title credits role to the rhythm of a song sung by the same girl. This places the mood in a weird way, as she doesn’t appear again in this form until the end  (where she introduces the only segment that is sadly missing from this film, a full-color musical number with choreography, singing and dancing, that is sadly unavailable due to the grabby hands of censorship), while she appears as a maid in our main plot: the son of a rich family gets to know a pretty young girl, he assumes that she’s a virgin as she is quite educated and well-dressed (not the kind that he uses to fuck around, the easy ones he likes to get to know, as we can see from his attitude when he encounters a friend in the restaurant he is in with his date), but when he gets to her apartment and asks to come up and slowly he thinks he wins her over and has sex with her, she asks for 5,000 pesos, her fee, as she is a prostitute. What I liked about this film is how it reverses the usual problematic of the easy or hard-to-get girl, as if one was better or more virtuous than the other, as here the female character gains her strength and footing in society through the demonstration (and monetization) of her sexual urges, desire and looks. She is the strongest woman because she is a prostitute, and our protagonist is still stuck on a centuries-old narrative as he repeats clichéd dialogue like “I don’t like how you are in this place” and “I want to get you out of here”, while she is perfectly comfortable and has the total support of her mother, that sees the business as blooming and wonderful and the most perfect choice for the lifestyle of their family. The film continues through a path of madness as he wants to marry the prostitute (after she has spent practically all the money that he has access to in practically occupying all her “business hours”, as he is keen on not buying love but earning it; but the obstacles that he has to marry her make the comedy hysterical: the mother that treats him as if he was a pervert, trying to deprive her from a constant income, or his parents that try to lease the girl so he can enjoy it forever. It is a film with a feminist point of view that actually works immensely to its favor, one that does what it should, destroy the barriers and the precepts that one has and bring a new point of view to the audience. Once they get married, though, the movie does stall a bit, and it turns into something that would’ve been spectacular if the ending that is missing would’ve happened, but I can’t account for it. It’s still maybe one of those secret gems that I wouldn’t have had any access or knowledge of if I didn’t do this kind of crazy things I do, and I hope that it gets known more and more as time goes by.

8/10

‘La estrategia del caracol’ has a main great thing going for it: it’s incredibly important to the people of Colombia, as it posits itself on the perspective of the weakest link and it doesn’t look down on it, but quite the contrary, it elevates them to the figures of higher power in society. There’s also a really bad thing in this film: it’s highly implausible and completely ridiculous at times. The film posits the situation of the barrage of evictions that have been happening in the city of Bogota, specially in the poorest part of town, where big old houses are getting evicted violently by the police and original owners while dozens of people that live inside in its many rooms fight for their defense. We are presented to the next building that is to be evicted, and its lawyer, contracted by the people there, nicknamed “Perro” (Dog), as they find tricks and voids in the system to give them time to find a way to escape or to avoid that the house in which they live in is taken from them. The film seems to advance and halt through these findings and strategies (the movie is called after the final strategy, that I won’t reveal here as it is part of the surprise of the film, how they get away with it, or not) move the plot forward and halts it whenever they don’t work anymore against the lawyers and the supposed original owner that wants its house back, I guess, so they can sell it or do something with it, and I think that’s what’s good, the enemy of the film is a bit clichéd and it even acts as if he was part of the mob, but in the end it’s because we are not supposed to understand the way he acts nor his motifs, as we must side with the poor run-of-the-mill men and women that populate the scenes with their cries of despair and their tricks that help the lawyer. In a way the movie does entertain as we are constantly thinking what they’ll come up with next so they have more time to carry out their final strategy, and that’s where most of the fun from this film comes and ends, as there are many situations here and there that are presented, and given as a way of filling time and giving life to the characters from the “house” side of the story, that when they are dropped one completely forgets about it, and then asks if it was completely necessary that we were presented with them, as they add nothing to the story: I’m mostly talking about scenes featuring the finding of a treasure, the apparition of Virgin Mary in the walls of the house and a monk character that seems lost in this movie, as he is neither comical nor serious nor has any kind of development, so it’s a complete waste, even if he has some kind of sexual tension with another house member, it never amounts to anything important. That’s the problem, as it wants to be this big portrait of the people of Bogota it forgets that it’s a movie and that it has a big plot development going on: they’re all going to lose the place where they live, and thus anything that doesn’t go in that direction isn’t helping. But the film is well acted and it has a sense of poetic and even social justice regarding the position of the poor, so it is an important film for Colombia, but I think that it’s poorly constructed and it needed severe editing. Still, fun.

7/10

So, maybe more clearly than in any of the earlier matches, Argentina wins and passes to the SemiFinal. Who will it face? Well, tomorrow we will find out as the winner between Brazil and Paraguay. Sadly, Colombia can’t have another chance with me in terms of exploring their filmography. Also, @jotafrisco has already given me the film that will go to the battle against the winner of tomorrow, so if you want to know and check it out, be prepared and attentive!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s