American Cup #1 of 2 Semi-Final Matches: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952) vs. ‘Invasión’ (1969)

singin_rain

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952, Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly)

vs.

invasion1

‘Invasión’ (1969, Hugo Santiago) Invasion

Finally we’ve come to the semi-finals, and I’m so sorry that it took us so long. So, to make up for the time lost, enough talking and let’s get to it. As we already know, Danny Bowes is the critic that chose the films for the US, and Roger Koza is the critic from Argentina that chose the films for his country. So, how these two national classics will duke it out?

***

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is a classic film that I dreaded watching and that I immediately felt familiar as I went through its comfortable length of 100 minutes, and thus I remembered that I had tried watching it before on TV and I remember people in my house seeing it when I was very little. I’ve always avoided musicals, specially those that seem very artificial about the way that they work, and only I’ve taken them seriously when they make fun of themselves, or when the world around them is just as ridiculous as someone just bursting out in a song. Luckily, this has an interesting way of doing it, as it points to itself and to the musical numbers and names them absolutely artificial because we are in the place where the artificial world of films begins: Hollywood. It is, ultimately, the wonderful element that separates this musical from the rest, even if it’s named one of the best (and sometimes The Best) musicals of all time, and it’s because even if it has the most beautiful choreography ever put on screen, as well as the most surprising colors, it is, ultimately, with its tongue firmly planted in the cheek, as the world portrayed of stars and singing not only mirrors the industry and takes a stab at the way it works, but it also pokes fun at itself and it troubles behind the scenes, regarding the dubbing of actresses, the expensive nature of the musical numbers, the relation between the characters, the sickness inherent to such exhausting movements, etc. It was evident from the halfway point that I’d adore this film when I finally got that the issue itself of the ridiculous nature of musicals was the whole point of it, even if it reminisces an era where musicals still don’t exist (if anything, it chronicles the birth of the genre as a bombastic and operatic event that only ridiculous vaudeville actors could do), it becomes one of the most meta films out there in terms of how it seems to replicate itself throughout the ages as a normal musical when it’s actually transgressive, fun and absolutely insane when it comes to any aspect of it, from its bright colorful artificial cinematography to the reutilization of songs from previous musicals. This is a masterful film and I’m glad that I didn’t avoid it anymore.

9/10

‘Invasión’ is a cypher, a prediction and a powerful film. Written by two of the most important Argentinian writers of all time, Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Cáceres, they didn’t expect to write a film that would challenge the establishment as the elements that were portrayed were deemed dangerous by the dictatorship that went on to happen a few years after the film was released. Why did that happen? Well, this is the product of a film that tries to apply genre specifics in a context of austerity like the one in Argentina regarding these kind of films. It’s about a group of men, lead by an older wise man (reminiscent of Borges himself in the way he speaks and the words he uses), trying to find ways to prevent an imminent invasion from foreign elements, represented here by men in trenchcoats that violently make those from this ‘revolution’ die as cruelly as possible once they encounter them. It’s fascinating to hear about these agents of chaos that permeate every segment and place that the characters appear in, from the crowded streets of Buenos Aires (here renamed as if it were a fantasy town from some science fiction novel) to the cafes filled with tangos and singers, later to the stadiums, horrific scenarios where the bodies of dead revolutionaries seem to appear and left there to rot as if it were a symbol of the futility of the fight that they are having. Reminiscent of both noirs and the nouvelle vague, the film managed to become controversial because of how much it mirrored the actions of the secret police of the dictatorship that followed up after the movie was released, as if taking cues from the visuals, mimicking not only the violence, but also the tone of the language (you are with us or against us), the way that they dressed and even to the extreme of using the same places (like the stadium) as scenario for their massacres. The film itself is a bit slow, but it gains momentum towards its end, and its bleak ending is among the most powerful that I’ve seen in a long time. The meditative nature of some segments detract from a sense of urgency that the film desperately needs to remain interesting all the way through. Still, an extremely powerful movie.

8/10

So, that means, that USA advances and that Argentina, the former champion, loses. Who will accompany the North American country in the final? We’ll have to wait and see.

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