Wilder blooms

Pub date July 29, 2008
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

After Burnt Money (2000), Marcelo Pineyro’s conventionally entertaining true crime tale of gay bank robbers, queer blooms began to grow within the wilder garden of new Argentine cinema. Here’s a guide:

Smokers Only (Veronica Chen, 2001) Chen’s debut — about a hustler who sometimes tricks in ATM stalls and the goth girl who becomes obsessed with him — is probably the first chapter of the new queer Argentine cinema. Unfortunately, it’s boring and pretentious, built around an object of affection who isn’t as compelling as he is cute.

Suddenly (Diego Lerman, 2002) B. Ruby Rich (as quoted on Michael Guillen’s Web site the Evening Class): "A queer empathic … lesbian romantic escapade. If you’ve never seen or heard of [Suddenly], you’re missing your chance to see a young woman abducted at knifepoint by the lesbian street punks that desire her."

Ronda Nocturna (Edgardo Cozarinsky, 2005) A veteran director who fled Argentina in 1974 following the reelection of Juan Perón, Cozarinsky returned from exile to make this film. At least partly inspired by Chen’s Smokers Only, he borrows from that film’s night-in-the-life-of-a-hustler scenario. But Ronda Nocturna is hotter, wiser, and more far-reaching in its bottoms-up view of corruption in urban Argentina.

Agua (Veronica Chen, 2006) Chen’s follow-up to Smokers Only isn’t queer in story line, but its gaze at the male body in motion — and masculine psyche — is a beyond–Claire Denis case of female eye for the straight guy in turn for the queer guy. Handsome lead actor Rafael Ferro builds on his memorable appearance in Ronda Nocturna. A burst of pure athletic cinema with moments that match 2005’s Zidane (on a much lower budget) in their intense interiority, Agua refreshes.

Glue (Alexis Dos Santos, 2006) A triumph of intimate collaboration between a trio of young actors and a new director, Alexis Dos Santos’s first movie takes the bi-way to becoming maybe the best — or at least most honest and deep — teen movie of the 21st century so far. Lead actress Inés Efron’s brave gawky beauty reveals what’s been lacking from American cinema since the heydays of Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall.

La Leon (Santiago Otheguy, 2007) Perhaps influenced by Lisandro Alonso, this handsome black-and-white feature scopes out alienation, attraction, and phobic intolerance in the Paraná Delta.

XXY (Lucía Puenzo, 2007) Efron returns in the role of an intersex teenager, delivering another superb performance.