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When the retired seventy-seven years old hypochondriac widower Fred moves to an apartment in Madrid, his temperamental daughter Cuca has an incident with his next door neighbor, the elder Argentinean Elsa. Later, they meet each other and Elsa seduces Fred with her reckless behavior and view of life and they have a romance. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Talking about China Zorrilla is the same as talking about Federico Luppi. The difference, personally, is that I've seen Luppi, and been able to admire him in his work, but I haven't seen this old woman who gets better with the years; like wine. I haven't seen her at all. However, she has always been and will always be one of the biggest Argentine celebrities and best actresses of our history; and if some critics say that she is "for an Oscar" in this film, it is because she is.
I know the United States will never watch an Argentine film and consider its cast seriously, but who knows? We've had Best Foreign Film nominations in the past. At her 83 years old, and gratefully for the ones who adore her, she is able to make at least one film per year. In this year's work, she plays Elsa, the leading woman of "Elsa & Fred".
The movie's title proposes a clichéd romantic comedy, coming from the United States, like, for example, "Alex & Emma", "The prince & me", you know The thing is it is from Argentina, and it has one element that separates it grandly from the titles I've mentioned; it comes by the side of age. Elsa and Fred (Manuel Alexandre) are really old persons, supposedly in their 70's, and they are falling in love as the youngsters are in the latter films.
It is important to say that if the movie had no image, and if the voices weren't so revealing, Elsa and Fred would be just like those youngsters. This is just because of the words they say, because of the way they speak, however their story is sad. Fred has recently lost his wife, and he is locked up in his apartment, that is just next to Elsa's. She has sons, grandsons, brothers, husbands, I don't know how many because she is a tricky woman, but director Marcos Carnevale and writing partner Marcela Guerty (writers of great Argentine shows like "22, El loco" and powerful movies like "El día que me amen") try to keep it as real as possible so we can believe we can find love again and again, no matter our age. It doesn't reach that much, though, and this and other stuff that are not worth mentioning make the film fall a little short from good.
What was amazing was to see the movie theater replete with old people; people as old as the film's main characters. And none of them was alone. What I'm trying to say is that the film achieved an objective in getting these couples to watch the movie. For their pleasure, there were lots of beautiful places in Carnevale's camera, and also incredible stars in the cast, including Roberto Carnaghi, who plays one of Elsa's sons and Federico Luppi, who appears late but amazes as always. He is just there for three minutes, three amazing minutes.
Ironically, because I said this could be an American film, the opening is undoubtedly at the level of one of those films; with beautiful breathtaking images, like in dreams, with water in the middle and blurry frames explained by Lito Vitale's unique music, in his unique language, which makes me wonder how come he never made music for films all around the world.
But in the end, it is China Zorrilla, whose mannerisms win the audiences' hearts, and whose grace is untouched, as if she was still a teenager in search of her first love.
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