Pay careful attention to the opening titles and credit scroll on this multinational co-production lest you miss important clues and hidden pleasures.
Carlos Saura’s Argentina is really a concert film, unique in that the only spectator is the camera. Not a word is spoken, though many are sung (in Spanish, with subtitles). Several live performers, unidentified until the credits roll, interact with their own shadows, their own video images, and one another, the huge open space they inhabit marked off with spotlights and translucent flats.
No one’s shoulders block your view; you’re alone with the cinematographer and dozens of singers, dancers, drummers, and other musicians, fine artists communing with their folkloric roots. Generations of Argentinians, from a wizened woman vocalist to bola masters to a fresh-faced pianist in a formal suit, express their love of country and their leftist politics; in one scene, young students in white jackets sit transfixed at old-fashioned school desks — and by the projected images of the region and songs of the late Mercedes Sosa.
Shot in an old barn in Buenos Aires’ La Boca barrio, the film draws you in until nothing matters but the concentration of this population on their heritage and their pride. Saura, 84, is a Spaniard who lets his skeptical attitude reach deep into Argentine colonial history and political allegiances. “It is certain,” a mellow singer intones in one of the final scenes, “that [God] eats at the owner’s table.”
Written and directed by Carlos Saura
First Run Features
Opens June 17, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas