American Cup #2 of 2 Semi-Final Matches: ‘Tiempo de revancha’ (1981) vs. ‘Sem Essa, Aranha’ (1970)

‘Tiempo de revancha’ (1981, Adolfo Aristarain) Time for Revenge


‘Sem Essa, Aranha’ (1970, Rogério Sganzerla) No Way, Spider

Well, sorry for the immense delay on this post, I have been busy and finding enough time to write and watch these movies has been hard, and specially since there are two of them each time, but this is the penultimate match of this American Cup and the Final will, hopefully and will try to make it so, be up this Saturday, the same day that the much awaited real Final is played between Chile and Argentina. But today, we have another semi-final, the second, between what are maybe the two biggest power forces of cinema in Latin America: Argentina and Brazil. Argentina won its match against Colombia with the obscure yet amazing and surprisingly great truncated film ‘Ufa con el sexo’ (1968) and today is matching with the film from what is at the same time the most and the least spoken about director, who is having some sort of renaissance these days, Adolfo Aristarain, once again this film was chosen by @jotafrisco as his second favorite Argentinian film ever. Brazil, on the other hand, had a rougher time with a virtual tie with Paraguay, but finally the Godardian film ‘Bang Bang’ (1971) came out forward as more inventive and much more interesting in the perspective of the future, and along comes the second film for Brazil, another Godardian picture from another semi-obscure director, so, what will be the end of this? Let’s find out.

‘Tiempo de revancha’ is maybe the most surprising and best film that I’ve seen so far for this experimental cup that I’m doing, and maybe to watch a film like this is what compensates me the most when it comes down to doing these strange and weird experiments with my film viewing and how much I write about them. Now, I might be proven wrong when it comes down to what will be the best film down the line, specially when we have another movie against this one and the final between the film from Peru and the one from the country that will win now, but still, it’s going to be an extremely tough competition, as this movie is my kind of movie: precise, beautiful, entertaining and thoughtful; I don’t ask much, and that is my criteria for me to absolutely love and save this movie from any sort of oblivion in the future. Much has been talked, specially by the critics and specialists on the work of this director, on how this film relates to the dictatorship that was going on at the time in Argentina and how the movie, through the use of symbolism and subterfuge it managed to get on theaters, no matter how violent and incredibly explicit the title is, as if the director himself wanted some sort of revenge against the powers that control the lives of so many Argentinians at the time. The movie uses the figure of an ex-syndicalist that tries to get a new job at a big mining company that tries to mine copper from a mine on the province of Argentina, and thus with a clean face and a new name he tries hard to find a way to earn his living. We see how he arrives there with his wife and is introduced to all the people that he will work with in the detonations of the mine that will uncover the precious copper, and there he finds an old syndicalist friend, and with time as they catch up with each other they will cook-up a plan to scam and give the company what they truly have to be milked off: their money. The movie doesn’t entertain itself too much on the technicalities of the plan itself, as the movie centers on the relations between the people and how they try to fight the powerful by hitting them where they will be hurt more, as they plan that the friend of our protagonist will fall under a pile of rocks when a detonation starts and will be rendered mute due to the shock (something he demonstrates he can do by putting down a lit cigarette on his arm and not saying a thing), but not surprisingly the whole plan goes wrong, the friend dies and it’s our protagonist that is blocked under the rocks. Once he is rescued he knows exactly what to do and to say, or more precisely what not to say. Once the film steps away from the detonations, the plans and the province setting and they settle in Buenos Aires for tests and judicial trials to prove that he truly went mute due to the shock, is when the film gets to its best moments, as the mute performance of Federico Luppi goes to insane lengths to try to inform everything he needs to say not through face expressions (that are mostly mute) or the hand-drawn notes, but because of the attitude of his body, that immediately tells us if he’s scared, happy or even bored. His smiles are maybe the best smiles in the history of cinema, as it signals a sign of triumph over the powerful, and even when the film gets to its violent lengths it never manages to not surprise or put you in a tense mood. Watch it, watch it, and I’m not saying it as an Aristarain follower (I didn’t like his ‘Últimos días de la víctima’ (1982) so that’s that).


‘Sem Essa, Aranha’ is a Godardian fable of questions and political positions through the style of Italian Neorealism. It sounds strange? Well, to me it sounds like a great time but also one that is filled with the complicated and truncated logic as well as the confusion of discourses that try to bring up a point that I’m just too dumb to understand. The film starts with a character nicknamed Spider (Aranha) that goes around buildings saying how he is one of the most gorgeous persons in the world (he isn’t) and no woman has said no to him ever, and he continues his travels down to a place where naked women, transvestites and transsexuals dance and yell and articulate their sayings against the overbearing figure of Spider, who is a wealthy man that does his will through the power of the money he has and the connections he can pull out from diverse countries and businesses that he controls around the world. I was reminded a few times of Glauber Rocha’s statement on Hunger and Cinema (that I read too long ago to even quote it here) whenever one of the women yelled out that they were hungry and that their stomach hurt, all this to the camera while it swung around framing different people, dances, singing, or people just staring right at the camera because they were never intended to know that they were being filmed, and along comes my comparison to Neorealism, as the film seems fixated in the poor parts of Brazil as this rich character passes around, and the people around just stand there and see what’s happening, laugh, sing or dance along, or just look straight at the camera, giving it a sense of true realism as well as a weight to the positions that are being mentioned. Just like the obsession of Jean-Luc Godard since his earlier experimental pictures with the concept of Africa and how one could finally understand that continent, here the same is done but in a much more desperate manner, because they are asking about what is Brazil and what it means to be a Brazilian, does it mean to be hungry, poor and analphabet? Does it mean to be controlled by forces outside of your own country, to look sad as the government does as it pleases? In a sense this is less constructed than the positions and questions that Godard posits, mainly because they are done in the midst of the situations themselves, they are done singing and yelling and the camera moves wildly as if the answer was beyond the frames of the picture that is classically taught that should have them. It’s a never ending parade of people saying things and then showing themselves as they truly are, and it’s interesting in concept and I think I’ve understood more about this movie by writing it here and I even like it more in the light of the analysis I’ve tried to do in these few words, but in the end there’s a lot to process here and I don’t think I’m fully qualified as others are to do so. I can get Godard in a sensual sense, this is raw and more violent, and while I admire it, I can’t fully say that I can “get” it.


So, that means that the final match of this cup is between Peru and Argentina! Who would’ve known. Which movies will fight for the precious cup? Let’s find out this Saturday!


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