Sunday, January 2, 2011

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #4

4. Carancho

Hey, do you remember the last winner for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film? No? How quickly you people forget when Roberto Benigni's not involved. Well, El Secreto de sus Ojos was a taut, tightly controlled decades-spanning Argentine murder mystery/romance, featuring a celebrated long take as the two main cops chase the perp through a crowded soccer stadium (and trust me, a packed Argentine soccer stadium during a normal game has about 15 times the energy and people of, say the Superbowl). This complex, ostentatious shot, in the midst of a mostly low-key procedural, is the apex of Argentine crime cinema. I have no small amount of national pride (thanks, dad) when I say that the second largest South American country has been quietly honing the crime thriller over the past decade to the point where it has now become its own national genre, reflecting the economic, social and political instability they've suffered for decades. While reconciling its past of the government disappearing dissidents, new challenges have risen up in the late 90s to confront it, with a quick succession of presidents insted then ousted (it's fine, I'm sure they're both words), the steady decline of the peso, joblessness, and civil unrest, it felt its bottom slipping out from under it. As a result, the 2000's were fertile with films of thieves, con men, detectives, gamblers and murderers, all with shifting or unclear allegiances.

In the past few years, Argentina has been regaining its foothold, while the US has been in decline and the Oscar win shows that only now are we beginning to appreciate what that nation to the south has been through. At the same time, its recent spate of crime films climaxed with the aforementioned shot announcing "we know a thing or two about this." Carancho stars Ricardo Darín (he's been in almost all of Argentina's crime films of the past twelve years, playing the investigative protagonist of "Secreto" and many others) as an ambulance-chasing lawyer who falls for a doctor as he cruises the ERs. Not sure what else will happen, but you can be sure someone gets in over his/her head and bad things happen. Pablo Trapero directs, who had nothing to do with El Secreto de sus Ojos, but did make Mundo Grúa (Crane World), which was a fascinating study of a middle-aged man in suburban Buenos Aires trying to make a living in a new crane operating job and finding love by reliving past glories (his band was a one-hit wonder in the 80s). Hopefully Trapero can transpose some of that loneliness to the crime world and show that Argentine cinema still has some juice left in it.

If you don't speak Spanish, I'm sure you at least speak blood, guns and sex fairly fluently.

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