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Leopoldo Torre Nilsson was one of the stars in the renaissance of Argentine cinema in 1955- 1975, a period were many expressionist, experimental movies were made, influenced by European directors such as Bergman and Antonioni. Argentine movies, until then distributed mostly in Latin America (there were exceptions) began to be known in Europe and to collect awards, among them the Silver Bear at the 23rd. Berlin International Film Festival garnered by Torre Nilsson's film Los Siete Locos (The revolution of the Seven Madmen, 1973). He also made some commercial movies and, later in his career a few "patriotic" films such as El Santo de la Espada (The Knight of the Sword, 1970) dealing with episodes of Argentine history.
In the fifties, Torre Nilsson initiated a personal and artistic relationship with novelist Beatriz Guido, who collaborated as a scriptwriter in all his later movies. Although immensely popular in the fifties and sixties, Guido's novelistic abilities were not up to the best; many of his characters (especially those belonging to the "have not" classes) are rather artificial, and her plots are often contrived and melodramatic. She wrote, however, some memorable short stories, El Secuestrador (The KIdnapper, 1955) one of them, and she became a competent screen writer. Her popularity faded, and probably very few young Argentines (outside of literature students) know her work today.
El Secuestrador is not an entirely successful movie. Guido's short story, as most successful short stories, succeeds not only for what it says but for what is only implied, or left for the reader to imagine. In order to expand the story into a movie script, what was implied is filled out, in some instances in melodramatic fashion, and extraneous characters are added, contributing nothing to the tale. Still, the result is worth watching; it has a tense, sharp, edgy feeling accented by Torre Nilsson's oblique shots.
The movie introduced two new actors, María Vaner and Leonardo Favio, whose acting careers took off spectacularly (Favio was also a very popular singer and became a director of note). Favio and Vaner do well, albeit there is some awkwardness here and there. The supporting cast is good. Moody, atmospheric black-and-white cinematography by the great Alberto Etchebehere and dissonant music by composer Juan Carlos Paz contribute successfully to the movie's feeling (Paz was the chief proposer of Arnold Schoenberg twelve-tone composition system in Argentina).
Torre Nilsson's work has endured, and not only in Argentina; in 2010, more than 30 years after his death in 1978, the Los Angeles Film Festival honored him with a retrospective of some of his movies.
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