A mysterious man emerges from the Argentinean rainforest to help a poor farmer and his daughter, who are threatened by a band of mercenaries hired to force them to sell their land. take over his property.
Gael García Bernal,
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We are taken to follow a man who we watch outside a school in Buenos Aires. He enters and at the reception he explains he has called ahead to pay some outstanding amount he owes for the education of his son. He is well dressed, so one figures he is a well heeled father who fell behind in his payments. Little prepares us for what he does next. When he is shown to the person in charge of accounts, he tells her coldly to give him the money he knows is in one of the drawers and warns her he is carrying a gun. The money, it turns out, is kept in another office, but he has no problem getting it. He walks out as though nothing happened.
We follow them man. He makes a deposit of the cash he stole in an automatic cashier. A bit later, he enters a cafe, and orders coffee. The surly waitress that arrives with his order spills the hot liquid in his hand, burning him. The man is in pain. He needs some kind of medicated cream to ease what he is feeling. Not content, with the one robbery, he hits another private school, taking the money, but this time he needs to navigate his way around a security guard.
Little prepares the man to realize the young waitress is following him. He attempts to get a disguise by buying clothes that are different from what he wore earlier, but the woman is relentless in her pursuit. Later on, he surprises the waitress, who faints. Feeling responsible for what he caused, he takes her to a drug store, urging the pharmacist to help him wake her. The young woman reacts violently after she comes to, hitting the man with all her might. Getting away from her, he reveals the gun is a toy, which enrages her even more.
This enigmatic Argentine entry conceived and directed by Pablo Fendrik was a nice find when we caught it on an international cable channel. Even though the film is slow, the mere fact we are taken along to follow the man at the center of the action, keeps us riveted to the screen. There are a lot of ideas behind the film, no doubt. What is the purpose of the money the mugger amassed? After all, at the end of the film, we realize, the bandit is himself a school principal of what appears to be a poor working class school where evidently a mother is questioning the sanitary installations of the center. We get an idea he might be stealing from the rich to meet the needs of the unprivileged children in his care.
The performance of Arturo Goetz is nothing less than spectacular. The actor gives a tour de force in the way he created this strange man that on one morning decided to go after the funds of two schools, one right behind the other. The waitress of Barbara Lombardo works in subtle ways to convey the idea she was onto the mugger from the first moment she saw him at the cafe. The excellent camera work by Cobi Migliora captures every nuance on what is being reflected in the mugger's face.
Pablo Fendrick shows immense talent in his first full length feature. We wish him well, hoping he will succeed in whatever he decides to do next.
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