Well, the final day has come, the final match of this weird experiment, and what a journey it’s been. I’ve had the chance to see some films that otherwise I wouldn’t have seen, so for that I call this entire endeavor a complete success. We have two really amazing countries and filmographies in confrontation here: Peru and Argentina, not the same final as the soccer cup (here it’s Chile and Argentina), but still extremely interesting for its repercussions in my future viewing. While I’m still mostly interested in Chilean cinema, mostly because I am part of its legacy, but there’s a richness in Latin American cinema that I only now have more interest in than ever. So, that’s good, hope you found yourself interested in some of the films and filmographies of other countries, that’s my mission here.
So, Peru had a great stretch, with ‘Bajo la piel’ (1996) and then ‘Espejismo’ (1972) Peru achieved two easy wins against Bolivia and Uruguay respectively, and found itself in the final match with this film, one of the most famous of the recent time as well as one from one of its most revered new directors, Claudia Llosa, who has given a female voice to Peru and with this second feature achieved international recognition, once again this film was chosen by the great critic @criticademonica. On the other hand, Argentina had ‘Ufa con el sexo’ (1968) and ‘Tiempo de revancha’ (1981) under his belt, two unseen and extremely good films, and beat out with some distance to its two contenders, Colombia and Brazil (though it was a close call in the second match, but the greatness and surprise of Aristarain’s film surpassed my own thinking), and now comes forward with the first feature length film of beloved Argentinian director (and romantic singer) Leonardo Favio, a film that has been mentioned many times as one of the best ever made in Argentinian cinema, and as always this film was chosen by @jotafrisco. So, which film will come forward as the winner? Let’s see.
‘La teta asustada’ was surprisingly great. The main drive of this film is memory and acute sadness. Fausta is the daughter of a woman who just died, a woman who was raped while she was pregnant and thus, according to popular sayings, the transmit of a sickness came through the milk of her breast, the fear, what is called “the scared tit” (or “the milk of sorrow” in the english translation they used) where supposedly Fausta bears no soul and has no disposition to have children. The movie starts with the death of the mother, whom she communicates with in Quechua, an indigene language, and through the singing of their sadness and past, as well as anything that happens in their life, a custom that Fausta continues while she tries hard to find money to bring her to the center and bury her properly as she wants. The movie follows the stupendous performance and singing voice of Magaly Solier while she struggles with her own experience and the burden of the popular culture that springs and shows itself lively in the screen, specially through their wedding customs, that include birds inside a cake and strange and colorful food, as well as rituals that involve popular sayings and the peeling of a potato. Even though the film itself could have some failings specially when it comes down to how “showy” it is towards those elements that are specially considered strange by anyone from outside Peru (and thus brings forward the ‘tourist’ element that made this movie so popular in festivals and prizes around the world), it does bring itself downward with the struggle of Fausta and her wanting of burying her mother, specially in relation to the job she has to take as a maid in a rich house, and thus bringing forward a social element of the film that was absent in other movies that I’ve seen from Peru, specially when it comes down to that relation that might be a bit tired when talked about, but it’s still interesting to see how it plays over there with its specifics, specially those that the film posits, with the woman that contracts her as some sort of overbearing figure that takes too much interest in Fausta, due to her singing, and the way that she takes care of her, just to give it a twist towards the end. The film is raw in its words and the way that it treats its subjects, but it could see how it could’ve been much meaner and explicit, and I think that it’s good and bad that the film doesn’t go that way, in a way I was glad that Fausta wasn’t suffering more, but I could see how it could’ve benefited from it, and that’s sad. But still, a good movie, with a great central performance, raw and interesting for its cultural importance.
‘Crñonica de un niño solo’ is a film about kids and raw energy, as well as formal and interesting filmmaking. Leonardo Favio was influenced by the recent European cinema for sure, and it’s been mentioned many times how this particular movie was mainly birthed out off of Truffaut’s film ‘Les quatre-cent coups’ (1959) and its story of kids in reformatory schools and how there are certain scenes that seem to be almost entirely lifted from that movie (like how he escapes and runs away from a place), but the way that Truffaut filmed and edited his story was closer to what we could call a “conventional” film, but the power there is incredible and the performances from the kids are phenomenal, but here the shooting style that Favio chooses is something more similar to what Bresson would’ve done with this. The performances seem to be Bressonian in its style and the approach that it has to certain events and movements from the characters is akin to those of the French formalist more than any of the Avant Garde filmmakers of the 60’s (though there is a jump-cut use that is incredible), in more than one way this reminded me more of ‘Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut’ (1956) and ‘Pickpocket’ (1959) (there’s even one scene where the title “boy” steals and pickpockets people in a public transport, using similar movements to those of the protagonist from the 1959’s Bresson film). The movie in itself is surprisingly mute and powerful, as the use it has for the children could be more surprising than Truffaut’s (though no one really approaches the performance levels of Léaud) as it chronicles a small boy that just has it against the instructors that retain him in the institution and hits one of them, having him sent to jail and in a painstakingly edited sequence (that reminds of the 1956 Bresson film) manages to run away and come back to his home town, where we see how he starts once again to fall into criminal practices that had him inclosed in the first place. The film has some sequences that made the film suffer once it premiered as it featured child nudity, but in the end it only brings more realism and even a note of homoerotism between the small child characters that bring forward the idea of how close and at the same time abandoned they are in the context of the film, and how it is also an indictment of the places where they grew up and how they try to be controlled. This is a powerful film that only seems a tad bit derivative for it to be completely breathtaking, but the influences work to its favor and bring a product that still feels real to the Argentinian reality as well as a testament to the quality of Favio as a director.
Once again a penalty shoot is mandatory and after much thought, I just have to give it to Leonardo Favio’s film. It’s a talent that doesn’t bring attention to itself through its technicalities and localities, and even if derivative it’s a movie that feels real.
So, Argentina is the champion!