'El Perro'

Argentine minimalist Carlos Sorin seems to repeat the formula behind his earlier Intimate Stories, also set (in the words of Voice comrade David Ng) in deepest Patagonian bumfuck: an array of melancholy loners, a magical-realist hint of serendipity, and a dog. The latter somehow manages to reverse the misfortunes of his middle-aged rescuer, a gas station attendant laid off after 20 years. That the pet changes the lives of its human castmates should go without saying; the real surprise here is how many heartstrings go untugged. Sorin's spare style belies a rich wisdom, as well as impressive performances from a cast of debuting nonpros. And it's hard to imagine the endless desolate plains of Patagonia ever looking as gorgeous as they do framed in his Zen-garden compositions. But the tale that wags the film is as barren as the landscape. How do you say "shaggy-dog story" in Spanish?

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