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Set in present day Buenos Aires, a middle-aged catholic priest (Ricardo
Darin) who is working on a housing project in a real-life slum brings a
french priest friend (Jérémie Renier) to work with him.
In my opinion, the movie's strength is not so much the plot but the realistic portrayal of the crude slum life-style, codes, culture and hardships.
My office is 4 blocks away from that slum, it is quite a contrast between a slick cosmopolitan, corporate world and a poverty-stricken area where violent crime thrives. I can tell you the director achieved great accuracy in the portrayal of the slum environment, without conveying a condescending feel, but a dignified one.
Worth a watch.
The perfect portray of human hypocrisy. I guess the actual message in
this movie is that nothing really ends, nor the struggle for a better
life or the evil that keeps people from getting a better life.
Some other reviewer stated this kind of story had already been told... Well has it?. Not this one in particular, I think the characters are quite real. Both main characters and extras have done a wonderful job keeping it real, nothing i have seen in Argentinian films for a while.
The shots are beautiful and seem to capture very well the actual landscape of the "villas". Music on the other hand doesn't live up to the most dramatic moments in the film, and personally I think it could have been improved.
To sum up "Elefante blanco" is definitely a movie to be watched, and mostly a message to be heard.
Argentinean director Pablo Trapero brings to the screen a very dark
seemingly hopeless disparity between the rich and the poor. Written by
Trapero along with Alejandro Fadel, Martín Mauregui and Santiago Mitre,
the story will burn on the viewer's mind the hypocrisy of disparity
between the rich and the poor.
The film opens in the Peruvian jungle where Father Nicolás (Jérémie Renier) witnesses the brutal massacre of his friends and congregation while he alone survives, leaving a profound sense of guilt for not having also died in the catastrophe. Father Nicolás's beloved friend and confessor Father Julián (Ricardo Darín) brings Nicolás to the "Villa Virgin", a 'favela' like shantytown in the slums of Buenos Aires near an abandoned huge project for a hospital that was started decades ago in Buenos Aires, seen today as a typical "white elephant", a useless structure that now houses the poverty stricken inhabitants. Drugs provide the major business in this ghetto. Assault weapons and firearms can be found almost everywhere. Add all that to the precarious living conditions and this sort of hell on earth is not even fit for anyone to endure. The two priests work tirelessly to help the local people. Julián uses his political connections to oversee the construction of a hospital. Nicolás remains deeply troubled from his experience in the jungle, but he does find comfort in Luciana (Martina Gusman), a young, attractive, atheist social worker. As Nicolás' faith weakens, tension and violence between the slum drug dealing cartels grows. And when work on the hospital is halted by ministerial decree, the faith of the inhabitants of Villa Virgin is shattered, and Nicolás discovers he has been called by Julián to assume his role of parish priest as Julián is coping with an undiagnosed neurological disease. It is a test of wills, a test of faith, and a sense of being crushed by the politics of Argentina.
Because of the setting in the filthy and decrepit slum the visuals become confusing with the cinematography by Guillermo Nieto attempting to take in too much visual information to the point of confusing the story line. But the musical score by Michael Nyman is brilliant and enhances the film tremendously. The three major actors - Darin, Renier, and Gusman - are outstanding in very difficult roles. If the audience is left with a sense of the futility the people of the slums face daily, then the film has accomplished its mission. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Very good movie excellently performed by Argentina big star , Ricardo
Darin . This Cannes selected film contains a fascinating , brooding
story , perfectly acted and concerning the narration about the
construction a hospital of riveting manner . The "Villa Virgin", a
shantytown in the barrios of Buenos Aires. Julian (Ricardo Darin) and
Nicolas (the French Jeremie Renier) , two priests and long-standing
friends, work tirelessly to help the local people. Julian uses his
political connections to oversee the building of a hospital. Nicolas
unites him following the flop of a mission he was leading in the jungle
, after paramilitary forces assassinated members of the community.
Deeply troubled, he finds a little comfort in Luciana (Martina Gusman),
an enticing social worker . As Nicolas' faith weakens, tension and
violence between the barrio drug dealing cartels grow. And when work on
the hospital is halted by ministerial decree , the fuse is lit...
This is a co-production Argentina/Spain/France , being well paced , skillfully edited and very interesting . The picture is plenty of thrills , intense drama , a love story , violence and thought-provoking issues . After splendid collaboration between Pablo Trapero and Ricardo Darin in a thriller titled ¨Carancho¨ , this relationship worked out so well that they're doing it again . Trapero's Elefante Blanco seems like a very likely candidate to turn up in becoming quite simply one of the best films of its year . The insightful storyline relies heavily on the continued relationship among three protagonists but it isn't tiring ; being entertained and with numerous diverting moments and agreeable feeling . Darin and Jeremie Renier star as priests coping in very different ways with the violence and corruption in the Buenos Aires slum of Villa Virgen where they work , both of them carry out excellent performances along with Martina Gusman playing as an atheist social worker . However , Ricardo Darin steals the show as the obstinate priest , Darin is a magnificent leading figure of the most important Argentinian movies such as ¨El Aura¨, "El Faro" (1998), "El Mismo Amor La Misma Lluvia" (1999), "Nueve Reinas" (2000), "La Fuga" (2001) and especially ¨El Hijo de la Novia¨ . Evocative production design filmed on location in barrios and slums from Buenos Aires , Capital Federal and Plaza Guemes . Emotive as well as sensitive musical score by the British Michael Nyman . Colorful and adequate cinematography by cameraman Guillermo Nieto . The motion picture well produced by Alejandro Cacetta and Juan Vera , was compellingly directed by Pablo Trapero . Trapero is a good filmmaker , his best film was ¨Carancho¨, dealing with a slow burning exercise in moral decay and his usual actress results to be Martina Gosman who has worked in various film with him , such as : ¨Lion's den¨ , ¨Nacido y Criado¨ , ¨Carancho¨ and of course this ¨Elefante Blanco¨ . This dramatic flick is an above average film and Argentina's official submission to the Cannes Film Festival and achieved several Awards of the Argentinean Academy. Indispensable and essential seeing for Ricardo Darin fans .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The evils of society at large, are examined by Argentine director Pablo
Trapero. He sets his story in the "favela" like shantytown that
sprouted near an abandoned huge project for a hospital that was started
decades ago in Buenos Aires, seen today as a typical "white elephant",
an useless structure that houses today the marginalized inhabitants to
the nearby slum. Drugs are a lucrative business within this ghetto.
Assault weapons and fire arms can be found almost everywhere. Add all
that to the precarious living conditions and this sort of hell on earth
is not even fit for anyone to live.
There is a prologue to the story. Father Julian, who has met Nicolas as they were studying for the priesthood, goes into the Peruvian jungle to rescue his friend from the massacre which he miraculously survived, carrying the guilt for not having died himself. Julian brings Nicolas to Buenos Aires to the church where he is tending to the poor inhabitants of the shantytown. Unknown to Nicolas, Julian has been diagnosed with a strange neurological disease, which is never mentioned. In a way, Julian has reached to Nicolas to be his successor, once he is not around.
Nicolas encounters all kinds of human tragedy in the area. A young social worker, Luciana, is another source for bringing hope to the desperation of the people in the shantytown. It does not take long before Nicolas realizes the attraction he feels for the young woman, who also has fallen passionately in love with the young priest. As was rages within the confines of the slum town, bringing tragedy into the area. Julian has to do wonders in order to feed the needy while silently suffering the disease that is robbing his life.
The screenplay was a collaboration by the director, Martin Mauregui, Alejandro Fadel and Santiago Mitre. The idea is not exactly new, as this has been the subject of movies of such impact as Fernando Meirelles' "City of God" as well as others that have examined the misery, despair and cruelty found in places such as the one depicted in this film. Where Mr. Trapero succeeds is in the handling of the cast. Ricardo Darin is a natural whose work gets better all the time. Jeremie Renier has some good moments, although he seems a bit out of place. Martina Gusma, who is Mrs. Trapero in real life, makes the most of her Luciana.
Guillermo Nieto's cinematography is crude, something that was required to make the movie work. Michael Nyman's film score does not go well with the images on the screen.
Really disappointed me with a very weak argument, it seems that the
film tries to portray only what we already know what happens in the
villages. Images repetitive, almost exaggerated, about the inhuman
conditions in which many people live in our country, make a documentary
Yes, it is impeccable filming, excellent cinematography, setting, and a way to shoot that turn the viewer into another resident of that place. Not so the music I think is another weak point because, beyond the issue of Pity Alvarez with which opens and closes the film, music that is heard is really bad.
But the film fails because it fails to catch a solid script and with characters that are created in such a way to get in your skin. Darin always right but off other papers, it sticks Renier with authority about his character but the most important protagonist of the film seems to be the rain, constant, unbearable, identified as another of the many shrines that these people must suffer, suggests almost as God forgot that part of the world. In short, a movie not to miss, but it is far from being among the best of Trapero, of Darin, of the year of our cinema.
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