The Argentinian films screened at the Suchitra Film Society were attractive for their freshness
It is becoming harder and harder for film societies to find newer cinemas to satiate the restless and gluttonous cinephile. In a time when the deep abyss of the Internet offers a vast array of genres of cinema at the soft tap of the touch pad, film societies are challenged to keep audiences interested in what they have to offer. The role of film societies also needs to change in such a time and they must try to show newer paths for aficionados who can then explore the beauty on their own. The Suchitra Film Society did just that when it screened a set of Argentine films during the past week. While the films were not scintillating in their aura they did leave behind a shimmer of freshness. Three of the biggest hits of recent Argentine cinema, both locally and internationally, found themselves being ambassadors of their country's filmic heritage. “Nueve Reinas” (Nine Queens, 2000, 114 min.), “El Hijo de la Novia” (Son of the Bride, 2001, 123 min.) and “El Aura” (The Aura, 2005, 134 min.) – the Spanish titles sound so peppy – were all interesting films but also very different from each other. Ricardo Darin, who is the Shahrukh Khan of Argentine cinema, stars in all the three films and his shadow looms over the rest of the cast in a friendly way. Darin occupies and fills a film in the way in which the Frenchman Alain Delon used to do in Jean Pierre Melville's films or in the way in which the Italian Marcello Mastroianni makes himself unforgettable in Federico Fellini's films.
Darin's own evolution as an actor becomes clear as we see him move from a one-dimensional conman in “Nine Queens” to a more nuanced restaurateur struggling through a midlife crisis in “Son of the Bride”. The grim taxidermist's role that Darin plays in “The Aura” is like a character from a modern Edgar Allan Poe story and must have been a much tougher act than his earlier films. Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, and one of the largest cities of South America, is the setting for “Nine Queens” and “Son of the Bride” while the vast grasslands, the pampa, with its hunting grounds and shady woods provides the noirish setting for the psychological film, “The Aura”.
“Nine Queens” is the story of two conmen, who, it looks like, meets randomly, and the film follows the characters through a hectic, fervent day as they snare a juicy victim – “A chance of a lifetime” as Darin's character exclaims. It's not all that easy though as they seem to be always just a little away from the jackpot till the film segues to a fist-smacking climax. “Son of the Bride” is a feel-good film that leaves one with a soft warm lull as it forces you to pause and ruminate. It is the story of a 42-year-old man whose life appears a mess as Juan Jose Campanella, the director, shows it. Life is not all that beautiful, the film seems to say, but it can be salvaged at any point. It must be pointed that a heart attack helps in making this sappy point.
Fabian Bielinsky directs “The Aura” after “Nine Queens” but the two films are as different as day and night. While “Nine Queens” is bright, pacy and keeps you on the edge of your seat, “The Aura” draws energy from the viewer as it sinks into a frenetic morbidity and an inexplicable ‘death-wish' on the part of Darin, who plays the main role again.
Argentine cinema suffers from the general problem that national cinemas the world over suffer from – Big Daddy Hollywood's overwhelming attraction. Added to that, Latin America went through a severe financial crisis through the nineties and in such circumstances, Ricardo Darin, with his reassuring allure, plays an important role and so does the hopeful state of Argentine cinema.