Roberto Arlt (1900 - 1942) disdained polite society and the Argentine literary establishment (the latter retaliated in kind and criticized his sometimes rough and unpolished writing). After holding various menial jobs he settled as a journalist in two leading Buenos Aires newspapers (El Mundo and Crítica). His chronicles were based on direct and incisive observation of diverse Argentine characters, some of them mainstream and middle class, others marginal: criminals, both petty and serious, prostitutes and their pimps, failed inventors (Arlt was one of them), dreamers hatching crazy schemes to make it big. These characters, sometimes distorted and magnified by Arlt's vivid imagination, populate his novels and short stories, in particular Los Siete Locos (The Seven Madmen, 1929) and Los Lanzallamas (The Flamethrowers, 1931), which serve as a basis for this movie. The theme that underlies both novels is a revolution of unidentified ideology, eternally in the planning stages. The planning, in fact concerns only the taking of power and the dislocation of society by application of awesome violence; what the final objectives of the revolution are is apparently of no concern to any of the seven madmen (some are women).
Director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson and his writers have done a good job of selecting parts of both novels that add up to a coherent movie script. The direction is well paced and the reconstruction of time (the 1920s) and place (Buenos Aires and environs in that time) is excellent. Very good cinematography as well. Alfredo Alcón does an excellent job but it has to struggle with his natural good looks and earnestness to play Remo Erdosain, the main character. The rest of the cast includes some of the best Argentine actors of the period like Norma Aleandro and Hector Alterio (later of international fame).
70 years after his death Roberto Arlt remains a fundamental Argentine writer, in spite of objections leveled at him over the years by many of his "polished" colleagues. This movie does justice to his work and hopefully will awaken interest in it. Watch this movie, then read the two novels, if possible in the original Spanish.
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