Reviews

In 'Esteros', When Intolerant Society Pushes, Love Pushes Back

Ignacio Rogers and Esteban Masturini in Esteros (2016)

While appreciating the beauty of Argentina, Esteros tells a story of timeless love.


Esteros

Director: Papu Curotto
Cast: Ignacio Rogers, Esteban Masturini, Joaquín Parada
Length: 82 minutes
Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures
Year: 2016
Distributor: Latina Estudio
MPAA Rating: N/A
UK Release Date: 2016-11-29
US Release Date: 2016-11-18

There's a certain beauty to the film Esteros, which partially comes from the fact that it's shot against the backdrop of the Argentinian countryside. Director Papu Curotto clearly loves the country he is filming in and opens his lens to the beauty of the nation from the cityscape to the rural areas that serve as the backdrop to this film.

To be sure, the elevator pitch of Esteros might remind one of an American film called Chuck & Buck (2000), in which two grown men who had a sexual liaison or two decades ago reunite and may or may not rekindle their pubescent romance. While Esteros does share that basic premise, this Argentinian film manages to be more mature and complete than its American counterpart.

Years prior, young Matias (Joaquín Parada) and Jerónimo (Blas Finardi Niz) spent many a night in each other’s arms as they reached their sexual awakening. While Matias (or “Matu” as he is affectionately called as an adult played by Ignacio Rogers) has grown up to share a relationship with Brzilian Rochi (Renata Calmon), the adult “Jero” (as portrayed by Esteban Masturini) has reached adulthood as a proud gay man. A chance encounter between the two just before Carnival leads to a reunification between the two young men and a potential rekindling of their romance.

A trip to Santiago del Estero del Ibera (the wetlands of Argentina) seals the deal and reawakens the feeling long thought forgotten within Matias. While Rogers maintains a mature and serious detachment from these feelings, Masturni demonstrates a reserved longing from their first meeting to the last moment before the credits roll.

All the while the Argentinian landscape unspools around them. From the lakes to the cattle county to the walled neighborhoods to the sunset-friendly fields. All the while the overtly and ostensibly innocent Rochi (Calmon) stands by as her relationship and her world changes around her.

There are no moral absolutes in Esteros, nor any judgment offered by director Papu Curotto or writer Andi Nachon. Events simply unspool organically as they might in real life. There's no lesson to learn or moral to the story aside from “love conquers all”.

Nothing else about Esteros can be applied to any cliché. There's no simple formula or easy resolution here. Instead there's a complex and believable drama that could go any which way.

Such is Curotto's skill. One never knows what masks the characters might wear. In fact, a major plot point revolves around the appreciation of the film Night of the Living Dead and the willingness to make oneself up as a zombie for Carnival. Is this simply another mask these characters wear? or is this a confession of the fact that masks must be worn in this society?

Either way, the film works as a drama, as a romance and as, in fact, a biopic of Santiago itself as it comes of age and stands before the camera as a character in its own right. If nothing else, Esteros is a solid romance and shows how acceptance and love can win against isolationism and prejudice.

In Argentinian Spanish (containing all of the local slang to delight of uninitiated viewers) with English subtitles, Esteros is a beautiful film bordering on epic that drinks in the scenery around its story and appreciates the romance inside the heart and outside of the camera eye. There's a certain chemistry and innocence to Esteros that appreciates the beauty of a country as much as the power of a romantic ballad of a lifelong storyline.

Curotto has the skill to balance both worlds. The idyllic world of the delicious world in which the story is filmed, and the utopian concept that love conquers all regardless of the history or orientation. When society puts its foot down, love says yes.

This is the mystery and the magic of Esteros

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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