One of the upsides of Argentina’s recent economic hardships is a boost to its film industry. As it’s relatively inexpensive to shoot in Buenos Aires, to hire topnotch editors and equipment, an exciting new independent cinema has emerged. This Argentine “new wave” includes directors like Adrián Caetano (Bolivia ), Lucretia Martel (La Ciénaga ), and Lisandro Alonso (La Libertad ). Their films break from a tradition of state funding, censorship, and corruption. Because my wife is an Argentine filmmaker, I have seen some of this transformation firsthand; young artist are maturing, and expressing themselves in bold, experimental ways.
Perhaps the most hopeful of the recent Argentine films is Suddenly (Tan de repente). It chronicles the experience of an overweight girl named Marcia (Tatiana Saphir), whose life consists of working at a lingerie shop, watching television, and obsessively calling an ex-boyfriend. One day she’s spotted wandering the avenidas by soft-butch chicks Mao (Carla Crespi) and Lenin (Veronica Hassan). Mao claims she is in love with Marcia and wants “to fuck her.” The pair kidnaps her, and takes her in a car-jacked taxi out to the beach.
When the taxi breaks down, they hitch a ride to the town of Rosario, where Lenin remembers she has a great aunt named Blanca (Beatriz Thibaudin). Though Lenin and her mom are not talking to each other back in Buenos Aires, and relations in their family seem strained, aunt and niece, who have not seen each other since Lenin was a little girl, form an instant and profound bond. The girls stay for a day or two at Blanca’s house, and their lives change shape.
It’s not often that a film out-cools Jim Jarmusch, or matches observational humanists like Eric Rohmer at the same time. Suddenly also recalls David Lynch’s work, finding eerie beauty in the most banal of images, illustrating human truths via inanimate objects. The act of pouring black coffee, drinking maté or smoking cigarettes is here transformed into a kind of poetry.
On a movie screen, the grain of the black and white 16mm blown up to 35mm makes every frame a haunting work of art. But Empire’s Region 1 DVD appears to have been transferred directly from a video, which makes the graininess hard to read. Still, this is a minor complaint. Suddenly encourages us to be open to new experiences, to see the mystery in the mundane, as you follow characters who discover one another and their own new purposes out of the ashes of the old. In the Argentina of Diego Lerman’s generous film, going bankrupt is an excuse for spending less time shopping and more time meeting potential friends and lovers.