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During his 42-year career as a director, Leonardo Favio made eight feature films, and virtually all of them deserve to be regarded as masterpieces of cinema. The discerning viewer will need to watch only a few minutes of a Favio film to realize that he or she is experiencing a unique way of viewing the world, and this is the mark of a true filmmaker.
The argument of _El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca_ is minimal; as a matter of fact, the full title of the film, _Este es el romance del Aniceto y la Francisca, de cómo quedó trunco, comenzó la tristeza, y unas pocas cosas más..._, almost tells you the whole story. Favio's narrative economy here is truly staggering. Within the first five minutes of the film, Aniceto (Federico Luppi) and Francisca (Elsa Daniel, of _La casa del ángel_ and _La mano en la trampa_ fame) have seen each other for the first time and slept together. No sooner has Aniceto won her affection than he begins to take Francisca for granted, especially when he sees Lucía (María Vaner), who is the antithesis of the innocent-looking Francisca. In a short time, Lucía replaces cockfighting as Aniceto's passion in life.
The three iconic actors are at their best in this excellent depiction of rural Argentina. Together they take part in a fateful dance, to the music of Vivaldi and Los Wawancó. It's amazing how Favio could make so much of such a "quiet" story. _El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca_ is the visual equivalent of a literary novella, which, unlike the novel, focuses on suggestion rather than on development. Favio gives the viewer the essentials, and the viewer puts the story together with these elements.
Some viewers may dismiss the film as a cautionary tale about the evils of machismo, but _El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca_ is much more than that. Like the haunting _Nazareno Cruz y el lobo_ (1975), this film bears the mark of a myth. Favio would remake the film in 2008, this time as a ballet bearing the title _Aniceto_. Deciding which of the two versions is "better," whatever that means, is like trying to answer the Beatles vs. Rolling Stones question: you may give an answer, but no matter what your choice is, deep inside you feel you're doing someone an injustice.
Like all of Favio's works, _El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca_ is a film to be seen and to be felt. I kept thinking of Tarkovsky as I watched it; not because of the content, not even because of the technique, but because of the power at work behind the camera: an overwhelming and ultimately unexplainable force.
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