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In this adventurous experiment in storytelling, secret identities, missing persons, lost treasures, exotic beasts and desperate criminals are only a few of the elements woven into a grand tapestry of mysteries.
The screenplay for "Invasion" was written by literary giant Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Boi Cesares (whose short story "Blow-Up", had been made into a film by Michelangelo Antonioni 3 years earlier). Invasion takes place in Buenos Aires, where a clandestine group of friends, businessmen, and enthusiastic youth have joined forces to fight off on invasion of their city by unknown forces; men in tan suits.
Like Jim Jarmusch's "The Limit's Of Control", the film gives us only what precious little information we need to move onto the next scene, like an agent on a mission who can't afford to know too much, so that if captured can't be forced to talk. "Go here", "take him", "good luck", "the rendezvous is at midnight on the docks", or "noon at the cafe", are about as declarative as many of the conversations get, usually issued by an old man at headquarters.
Unlike Jarmusch's cool, collected, calm fest, these guys get down to multiple scenes of shoot-outs, scuffles, and interrogation and torture. Why they are fighting, and who the enemy is, is left unanswered, as is why they don't seek help from the "authorities" or even the common man on the street. The city is being taken over slowly, "the trucks are coming in", is a phrase we keep hearing again and again. Imagine the Matrix, without the kung-fu/sci-fi stuff, where there is an eternal cat and mouse game between the Agents and those resisting the agents.
Erasing the specific nature of the enemy could have a very practical explanation like fear of censorship if they give Them or Us an official title. It could also be Borges and Cesares, after living their multiple disappointing rebellions, revolutions, and coup de tats, were weary of easy or convenient dichotomies. Or perhaps like GK Chesterton said of the Iliad, "Life is a battle", and the war will continue on regardless of which particular players strut the stage in fatigues.
Like the Trojan Army (Borges was a huge fan of the Iliad, and Adventure stories), our heroes are doomed to fail, which only gives their cause and epic and glamorous sheen; the final scene depicts a batch of new recruits standing in line to get guns and begin the cycle anew. It's like an abstract mob-film, where cool and charismatic men, light each other on fire, and insist they will die before they talk. There is a documentary like realness that add a tension and weight to the secret wars, which never seems to spill out into the light of day and attention of the general public.
Much screen time is spent just looking at blackness with only lit faces or ghostly eyes, showing the hero's as much in the dark as we the audience. But heroes they are, self sacrificing, dedicated comrades and friends, that we longer really see in modern action heroes, and their play-by their own rules, "did you have to break so much furniture McGarnical?", escapades. Like real covert ops, they are precise, they are also so casual, and at times defeated looking, you might imagine they do this every weekend; one man wants to know how long the mission will take, because has to be home early to meet his wife.
Though well lit and composed with crisp black and white austerity, there is one "magical realist/fantastique' flourish, when the team leader of the heroes, finds himself in an empty building were dozens and dozens and impossible dozens of men in tan suits, emerge seemingly from nowhere and surround him. He is tortured in a football stadium, where I am told, real dissidents and "traitors" were actually tortured and killed. It' doesn't quite live up the hype of the literary giants behind it, but that's a tall order to fill.
It's an interesting and reserved action film, with some great suspense and encouraging of the same kind of existential reflection that films like "Blow Up" and "Limits Of Control" demand. An obscure, but enjoyable French New Wave inspired, curious allegory from Argentina, about life's struggles which are always in secret, and always endless.
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