Tag Archives: Argentina

SIFF: The Heist of the Century, SanRemo, and This Town

Every so often we get movies that try to capture the magic of Sidney Lumet’s A Dog Day Afternoon but wind up looking either like artificial constructs like Now You See Me, or rehashed versions of other, better crime capers dating back to the 1950s. Ariel Winograd’s The Heist of the Century (El robo del siglo) treads a middle ground between crowd-pleasing and rehash but is mainly a solid two hours of entertainment. Its story, like Dog Day, is based on true events. On a hot summer day in 2006, a group of thieves led by Fernando Araujo (Diego Peretti)_and Luis Mario Vetetti Sellanes (Guillermo Francella, last seen in 2015’s The Clan) execute one of the greatest heists ever in Argentinean history. How they orchestrate such a massive break-in I’ll leave you to see for yourself, because it is as insane as it is audacious and often times flat-out funny. Winograd keeps the action constantly pumping with little time for contemplation and draws his pack of conspirators in enough of a sympathetical light to keep some focus on the men instead of rooting for the cops to eventually bring their shenanigans to a halt. If the story itself falters, it’s that once you realize that everyone involved will eventually meet their moment of justice, you start to forget the movie altogether. I had a hard time truly relating to the events of the film shortly afterward, which is probably due to having seen so many movies of the same kind over the years. It says something when the only movie I can recall almost scene-by-scene is Lumets, but then, Dog Day is a classic all its own. [C]

poster for SanRemo

When we meet Bruno (Sandi Pavlin), he’s trying to borrow a bike from a woman minding her own business because he is trying to get home to his dog. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that Bruno has escaped the senior-citizen home, and judging from the faces of the attendants coming in to take Bruno back, he’s done this thing before.

Later on we see him again, observing an. elegant older woman as she enjoys some exercise that ends when the sprinkler system goes off and she, instead of leaving, lets the water rain down on her as if in a blessing. Duša (Silvia Gušin) and Bruno start a tentative friendship although at times she seems a bit prickly, as if she wouldn’t remember him but does. A shared bond over a song develops, but they continue to meet over and over again for the first time.

Shades of Away from Her and The Mole Agent are all over Sanremo, and I mean that in a good way instead of looking for a cheap comparison. Sanremo establishes rather firmly that Bruno suffering from dementia and his repeated attempts at escape only make matters worse for him. He has a loving but strained relationship with his visiting daughter, who is conflicted with the sale of a house that contains so many memories. And of course, there is the presence of Duša, who gives Bruno a fleeting sense of hope.

Miroslav Mandic’s movie is one of great compassion for its characters. While we get that they have to be treated with a somewhat firm hand by the staff members of the home, it never deviates into potential cruelty. The look of the movie is desaturated, with dense fog opening the story. The fog may be an on-the-nose symbol of the state of Bruno’s mind, but an increased clarity in scenes and a gorgeous but somewhat surrealistic finale indicate that Bruno may have reached a sense of closure, even when his character winds up in a rather odd place. [B]

Arriving from New Zealand is a mockumentary in the style of Taika Waititi and Christopher Guest movies called This Town. Written and directed by David White, This Town tells the story of Sean (White again), a young man wanting to find true love and settle down. It’s just that he’s got a little bit of baggage which might be a deal-breaker. Several years ago he was not found guilty of slaughtering his entire family; however, just because a judge ruled in favor, it still doesn’t clear you of the crime. Or so Pam (Robyn Malcolm) thinks. She’s the former sheriff hot on his trail who’s turned her entire house into a network of clues and news clippings and recordings on 8-track in a last-ditch effort to nab Sean for good.

While Pam slowly manages to tie up the knots on her boundary-pushing investigation, Sean finds love with Casey (Alice Connolly). However, the town doesn’t do much to stand in between Sean and his rebuilding his life. This somewhat amounts to a bit of a problem in a movie that is often funny but not laugh-out-loud hilarious. Midway through, the movie loses a bit of steam and it seems as though perhaps it might be stretching itself a bit thin in order to meet a runtime. Even the comedic presence of Rima te Wiata — always welcome — feels a bit misguided and forced. By the end, once the end credits roll, I was having a bit of a time remembering White’s movie mainly because after a strong beginning it just didn’t know where to take itself and kept relying on too much of Malcolm to keep the conflict up. That in itself makes me rate This Town a C.

SIFF 2021: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet and The Pink Cloud

Brazil and Argentina present two movies that attempt to present a world gone upside down through a cataclysm, which references the 2020 pandemic. [Note, both movies were filmed before the COVID-19 outbreak struck.]

Daniel Katz wearing an oxygen tank in The Dog Who Wouldn’t be Quiet

Absurdism through a black and white lens and a young man somehow manages to come out of a series of disarming situations, one direr than the other, in Ana Katz’s movie The Dog Who Wouldn’t be Quiet (El Perro que no calla). Daniel Katz plays Sebastian, a soft-spoken man who sees the world react around him and somehow manages to conform to its curveballs. When the story begins we see him tending to some plants while his dog Rita observes in silence. Neighbors suddenly fill his doorway complaining that the dog won’t stop barking and perhaps the animal is in some mental anguish. The complaints get mirrored at work where Sebastian had brought his dog: the animal is disruptive. Such a disruption may lead to other employees acting out in non-productive ways. Sebastian leaves his job and finds work as a caregiver for a man suffering from dementia, which leads to other events in which Sebastian finds himself suffering a poignant loss, falling in love, and surviving a cataclysm that mirrors the 2020 pandemic. Ana Katz paints an experimental, gentle drama with hints of deadpan comedy that on two occasions veers into animated drawings that, while distancing in style, actually add to the gravitas. Her movie is a quiet exploration of resilience, pathos, and of a kind man caught under a world filled with chaos.

A lethal shade of rose envelops the world in The Pink Cloud

The Pink Cloud offers a hellish premise straight out of Luis Bunuel. If you ever saw The Exterminating Angel from 1962, you will see remarkable parallels between that movie and Iuli Gerbase’s debut film. With both movies, we find people unable to leave a comfortable space that becomes increasingly claustrophobic and which eventually pushes its occupants into the limits of stress. Both movies offer no explanation for why its cataclysmic event happens and offer no satisfaction. The culprit in The Pink Cloud is — you guessed it — a mysterious atmospheric change in which clouds turn a lovely shade of rose… and turn the air into a death trap that can kill you in 10 seconds.

A woman and a man (Renata de Lélis and Eduardo Mendonça) wake up from a night of partying to find themselves now having to lock themselves inside her home, unable to leave. Lucky for the woman, her place is conveniently large enough to fit her and the man she barely knows so at first, when the clouds appear, it seems a passing fad. “It’ll end soon,” its characters say through Facetime, and we as an audience hope so, (and again, I’m reminded about March of 2020 when the pandemic was new). It’s when the clouds refuse to leave when days become weeks, weeks become months, and months turn into years, the movie stretches itself into an act of indefinite torture. Stakes get higher, situations that would never have happened with the movie’s characters — central and peripheral — all of a sudden become very real, and the movie plunges into a dark terrain from where there may be no escape.

The Pink Cloud (A nuvem rosa)asks a lot from its characters and its audience alike. Forced cohabitation, the unreality that you might find yourself alone and left to fend for yourself (as one character is), is horrifying. Seeing its characters set adrift when we are still in the middle of a pandemic is a sobering experience. I recall when I didn’t know if a sense of normalcy might return. However, a year later, life is slowly returning to its roots (although we are still a long way). I can move about even when I still don’t engage in my pre-pandemic activities. The small cast of characters of The Pink Cloud, on the other hand, are glued to themselves and their immediate surroundings. Unnatural realities are being created, and life, miraculously, still goes on. You don’t have an alternative. You’re stuck to whoever you were stuck with at the moment of crisis; you can either manage or die.

Both The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet and The Pink Cloud are awaiting distribution so a release date is TBA,

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet: B

The Pink Cloud: B+