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Is 'Rancho aparte' a comedy? Yes, it is. A ridiculously funny movie to
see. Is 'Rancho aparte' a drama? It also is. Will it make you cry? I
don't think so, but 'Rancho aparte' will make you wonder who's right
and who's not.
I'm really tired to watch Argentine movies based in Buenos Aires. Even movies located far away from the country's capital have a 'porteño' idiosyncrasy. I remember watching "La ciénaga", located in Salta but the main characters speaking in Buenos Aires' accent. 'Rancho aparte' is performed by Buenos Aires actors, but they took the basic courtesy of learning the accent of rural San Luis, a not-so-geographically-remote Argentine province. That simple detail is, for me, a great homage to the people the movie's characters represent. That's respect.
'Rancho aparte' features an almost unbearable crash between modern-urban life and the not-so-visible lives of those who live in extreme material poverty on the countryside, far away from comfort, technology and the public eye. We never hear of them in the news but for catastrophic rains, floods of draughts. We're never told who they are, and even then we share the same nationality. When you hear the term "argentino" in Buenos Aires media, you must understand "porteño", for being Argentine is a little more complex than that.
Having said that, this movie's point is to leave you wondering who's right when, in fact, they're both right and they're both wrong. Or maybe nobody has a definite answer: there's no need to be right or wrong all the time. The grey spots of life.
What would you think about someone who, being able to push a button and turn on a light bulb for the first time, prefers to stick to his old -but known to be a certain way to light up a room- candle? Would you think that person is an animal, would you say he is culturally behind you? The candle works for this man, why should he choose the light bulb, something he didn't know he needed? It's funny to see ancient empires documentaries: the luxury, the comfort, the pleasures of those big cities. They had no cars, no toilets, no mobile phones, no freezers, but they lived to the top of comfort of their time. Our grandsons will laugh and won't believe the uncomfortable way we currently live in... Who will be right then? Us or them?
'Rancho aparte' will, for the open-hearted, propose a chance to put things you now give for granted, at doubt. Should movies be able to change the world, this would be a good starting point towards cultural integration and common identity. We all share the basics, it's our environment what builds the differences.
The technical aspects are generally well crafted. Artistically, the performances are exquisite -especially so for the female characters. You don't need to know this movie is based on a theatrical play beforehand: you notice it just a few minutes after the beginning. Luckily, the language is not theatrical, what gives more credibility to the movie: you feel you're spying on them rather than sitting in front of a stage.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tulio and Susana, uncle and niece, have spent most of their lives in a
small piece of land that belongs to a wealthy local man. When the
landowner's daughter decides to get married because of a sudden
pregnancy, the man asks Tulio and Susana to vacate the ranch. Not
having where to turn, they decide to go to Clara's who lives in Buenos
The trip to the capital turns to be a nightmare for Tulio and his niece Susana. He is not a well man; Tulio is confined to a wheelchair, although we are not told what is his problem. Susana, his niece has dedicated her life to taking care of his uncle. In contrast, Clara lives in splendor in a comfortable apartment in one of the best sections of Buenos Aires. She is shocked at first, but welcomes them, although a bit reluctantly.
The arrival only lasts one night. The primitive relatives from the country want to keep their traditions and customs, something that shocks Clara. Their habits do not change in the new environment, which seems a bit amazing. Clara has left her humble origins to make something out of herself and now she is cruelly reminded of the place she came from. To make matters worse, both Tulio and Susana have deep resentment against Clara for her negligence at the farm. It is clear the poor relatives will not remain with the well to do Clara for too long.
This Argentine film showed on cable recently. It is a strange film which might be considered a cross between a black comedy with a drama. Adapted from Julio Chavez's novel, and directed by Edi Flehner. The screenplay has the feeling of having been improvised by the cast, who are also given credit for the screenplay. It boggles one's mind to think there are still such backward people as Tulio and Susana in a country like Argentina. Poverty in the heartland is in such contrast with the new world, unknown to them, that proves too much for these naive souls facing a new situation which they are ill prepared to accept.
We thought the best thing in the film was Luz Palazon's Clara. She is a sophisticated woman whose past comes back to haunt her. Clara harbors guilty feelings for abandoning her roots in search for a better life. Leandro Castello and Mercedes Scapola, seen as Tulio and Susana complete the cast. Unfortunately, Tulio and Susana, in spite of the situation they find themselves in do not get the best from the viewer because their stubborn attitude to remain in the past, which would have been better served getting Clara's support for keeping the land and their old lives in the country.
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