Monday 22 April 2019

Spanish Film Festival (3) - Barrie Pattison highly recommends LA QUIETUD (Pablo Trapero, Argentina)

Pablo Trapero is one of those people that the festival circuit picked up in his early days and then dropped. Think Italians like Gabriele Salvatores or Luigi Zampa. It comes as a surprise to find these talents went on working. Trapero (Mondo Grua/Crane World, Famiglia rodante/Rolling Family) has continued to do some of Argentina’s most ambitious movies and his new La Quietud (the name sign over the gate of the low slung red buildings of the family rancho they use for the stylish opening title) is remarkable.

Trapero’s wife Martina Gusman and Bérénice Bejo are a pair of sisters who meet again when their aged father Isidoro Tolcachir has a stroke and is confined comatose in the I.C.U. The film stops being ordinary when we get the scene of the two sisters rolling about in the bed masturbating together in their scanties as they recall the black plumber they lusted after in their chidhood - bare intertwined limbs and giggling. The Medem Habitación en Roma is left in this one’s dust. The scene and a later make-out are more explicit that we are used to seeing in mainstream cinema or for that matter porn.

The family matriarch is played by the legendary Graciela Borges whose work runs from the fifties and is pretty much inaccessible in the Anglosphere. She soon manages to dominate her scenes. Just lighting a cigarette is spell binding. Borges comes into ferocious conflict with Gusman. Her “the first child is special” line gets to have greater meaning as the film progresses.

Diego Dussuel’s 'Scope images are mobile and exceptionally sharp and the film’s characterisation is quite merciless. We get to know these people intensely without my really wanting to spend time with them - but hold on. Latino melodrama is metamorphosing into Greek tragedy.

The girls share Bejo’s husband and Gusman’s lover with events complicated by Bejo’s new pregnancy. “Don’t meddle mother!” Borges is warned. Meanwhile the father Gusman adores has been wheeled on a respirator into the main bedroom with a view of the grounds where the numbered horses graze, to be attended by a relay of medics. They keep on reminding us this family is rich - cut to the thick steak being sliced on the dinner table.

The servile housekeeper insists Borges come back to sign a police witness statement and we start hearing about Powers of Attorney. There’s a mysterious ledger (another one) in the briefcase given Gusman.  The family argue over The Dictatorship. 

The sexual tensions reach a head at the family funeral, done Hill Street Blues style in a complex traveling when the camera switches from one character’s plot to another without an edit. The leads emerge from that scarred in more ways than one.

Borges’ big scene drags the film out of its exploitation format and into something more politically correct but also more challenging. This is not a film that will leave audiences impartial. The sonogram ending shifts the production even further away from what we expect.

Bejo is the performer we know and her travels, which have taken her from France to Iran and now South America, make her someone who has made use of her star status to build this impressive international filmography. She looks great and gives an exceptional performance to set against the film's men who are made uniformly spineless.

So far Spanish Film Festival is delivering big time.
Pablo Trapero, Martina Gusman, Berenice Bejo

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.