American Cup #3 of 4 Initial Matches: ‘El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca’ (1967) vs. ‘Araya’ (1959)

romanceaniceto

‘El romance del Aniceto y la Franscisca’ (1967, Leonardo Favio) The Romance of Aniceto and Francisca

vs.

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‘Araya’ (1959, Margot Benacerraf)

Sorry for the late date of these posts, compared to what I was aiming for. Life happened. Work happened. The worst and the best, ladies and gentlemen. So, without much else to say, here we have today’s match, with a returning country and a newcomer, with a cinema that is turning more and more interesting with time. This year, Argentina is represented by the wonderful critic and human being Roger Koza (Ojos Abiertos), who wasn’t only one of my teachers at the Talents Press Experience that I did this year in Argentina, but he also took care of me and talks with me often online; he is a more than worthy successor of Jotafrisco, who was the man responsible for choosing the films for Argentina last year. On the other hand, we have Humberto González (Revista Ojo), one of the wonderful critics that accompanied me in my travel to Argentina and the Talents Press thing, and he was kind enough to send me his three favorite films from Venezuela, his home country. Without much else to say, except that last year we already had a Leonardo Favio film (that made Argentina win the Cup last year), let’s get to it everybody!

***

Before any critical evaluation should be passed upon ‘El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca’, I must say that this is a movie that dearly needs a restoration. Isn’t there someone out there, among the many many many fanatics of Leonardo Favio, that would put up enough money so all of his movies are restored to a certain quality that would make them somewhat pleasing to watch? Sure, their qualities can still be felt… somewhat, but they still aren’t watchable enough for a big amount of people to go and appreciate them, as even the sound is distorted in certain portions, specially in this particular film. If there’s already a restoration, forgive me, I just have to work with what I have at hand, and what’s available for me to see, isn’t good enough, so maybe I might’ve missed something… Specially when I consider that this is a great film that can only benefit from the clear image and sound that a restoration would give. At 63 minutes it’s not only the shortest film that I’ve had to see for the project so far, but it’s also the one that took me the least amount of time to finish (among the work and projects I’ve had to space them out a bit, hence the tardiness), as it flies by with its representation of sadness, loneliness and love. While the title of the film announces a romantic story, the film mostly in the second half focuses on the male character of Aniceto after the inevitable separation from Francisca, someone that he fell in love with, only to later fall out of, but to still maintain by her side out of chauvinism and the supposed obligations that she has towards him. It is a highly positive film in terms of how it portrays Aniceto as a despicable creature and Francisca as an ultimately brave subject that frees herself from the slavery of their relationship, only to leave him alone to his sadness and what he thought was a future lover, that never came to be. It’s hard to write something about a film that’s so short yet so dense with imagery and performances without spoiling the entire thing, but I must say that the ending is both heartbreaking, satisfactory and it reveals a lot more about the previous 60 minutes of the movie, as it posits the characters into a different light, onto a path of tragedy that’s expected but never truly desired. It’s one of those films that I’m sure will be more widely discovered with time and be among the most studied in the history of World Cinema. Let’s hope this gets more and more available with time, as it’s one that can be easily watched a hundred times.

8/10

‘Araya’ is the first documentary that we’ve had this year in this Cup, and it wasn’t a complete disappointment like I thought it could’ve been. It’s a Venezuelan documentary that focuses on the people and the place of Araya, a salt and fishing town that doesn’t produce anything because of its barren land (due to the salty nature of the earth that surrounds it). I must say that the cinematography of this film is stupendous, the stark black and white helps the creation of poetic imagery regarding the salt, the skin of the men and women that work, the scorching sun and its effect on the sand of the beach, the darkness of the sea… everything looks gorgeous, which kinda contradicts the overall message that this documentary tries to make, but in the end the political statement that had to come out, never truly did. The main problem is that there’s a clear inspiration, and that is Buñuel’s classic ‘Las Hurdes’ (1933), a documentary masterpiece that features the lives of people that shouldn’t live where they live, taking a harsh look at their conditions, and not only of the way the people live there, but also about how the things and animals around them seem to be decaying monuments of their sad state. Here, the director clearly has that short film in her mind when she started filming, as the narration and the landscape shots are reminiscent of that, and the way that it approaches the subject matter is apparently similar, looking for that kind of language and commentary, but in the end it doesn’t want to insult neither the viewer nor the people who live there, nor anyone, and thus avoiding the risk of doing something uncomfortable, it avoids any sort of real interest that one could have in the film beyond the aesthetic one, and how someone with the same place and the same people could’ve done a real political statement regarding the poverty of the people of Araya. This, is just a film where people do their thing and sometimes there’s a hint of something bad that might be said, but it’s better if we just take a look at the poetry of the imagery. Right? Isn’t it better? Did you forget what you were looking at? Did you forget the hunger? Good. Look at the sea.

7/10

So, with satisfaction I say that Argentina advances to the semi-finals and will confront the United States team on June 21st. But I doubt I’ll make it by then, but I wish I did. It’s a shame that I won’t be exploring more of the Cinema of Venezuela, maybe next time!

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