review: Sweet and unbearable films

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I recently went to discover Argentina through film.

The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre screened a series of eight Argentinean films as part of its ongoing film festivals, celebrating filmmaking from around the world.

However, I only got to see one, or one-and-a-half films. Driving to Hollywood on a Friday or Saturday night is at least a two-hour event, plus time for parking. Friday night we arrived one-hour late, but we were lucky, the screening of “Historias Minimas” had barely started when we snuck in to find our seats in the dark.

Directed by Carlos Sorin, his third feature, “Historia Minimas,” tells the story of three Patagonian villagers who set off to pursue their dreams or find lost ones.

Eighty-year-old Don Justo, played excellently by Antonio Benedictis, sets off in search of his dog that ran away. On his 200-mile journey he meets Roberto (Javier Lombardo), a traveling salesman who goes through trials and tribulations in the decorating and redecorating of a cake for the son of a widow he is in love with, as he travels to their house. And Maria (Javiera Bravo), a young mother, sets off to compete in a tacky game show, the ultimate prize-a food processor.

The scenery-a flat, barren cold landscape-is filled and warmed by the characters, especially that of Don Justo. Actor Benedictis’ expressions are so full and painfully sweet, a multitude of words, emotions and thoughts are told with a single flash of his eyes. Lombardo is sweetly and humorously optimistic as the salesman, while Bravo’s simplicity contrasts well with the flash and gimmickry of the game show she hopefully takes part in.

Hope, despair and tenuous resolutions for all three result in the end.

Saturday night, I planned to see “Cleopatra,” starring Argentinean famed leading lady Norma Aleandro, but, even though we were only 15 minutes late this time, the show was sold out. Lines of Argentinean natives waited at the window for the next screenings, “El Juego De Arcibel” and “Un Dia In El Paraiso,” which we waited for as well, as my companion did not have a ticket.

The half seen film, “El Juego De Arcibel” (Arcibel’s Game) was unbearable. It is a story about a chess-playing journalist who is mistakenly imprisoned because of his supposed political views. Most of the story takes place in jail. The acting was bad, the story half-baked and it meandered. Halfway through the screening, my companion turned to me and said, “We didn’t do anything …” meaning, we didn’t do anything to deserve being imprisoned as well, so we left.