A young British woman is hired as a governess by a wealthy Argentine family. Through her position, she slowly sees how the upper class of society is slowly crumbling, and how a popular ...
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A young British woman is hired as a governess by a wealthy Argentine family. Through her position, she slowly sees how the upper class of society is slowly crumbling, and how a popular movement is preparing to install itself in power.Written by
Strangely Fascinating Film Shot in the Argentinian Pampas
This was not one of Julie Christie's greatest roles, as she plays a very prim and up-tight British governess who goes to work for a rich family in the Argentine countryside in 1930. She has little opportunity to show any emotion, and spends most of her time trying not to. It is a strange tale and a strange film. The direction by Maria Luisa Bemberg is rather wooden and uninspired. The editing is absolutely terrible, and when a train pulls out of a station you can be sure we see too much of it doing so, the concept of cutting away seemingly having little grip on the editor's awareness. Several of the Argentine cast of this film, which is mostly shot in English, are very good, but as their names mean little to those of us in other parts of the world, there is little point in mentioning any of them individually. There are some bizarre political statements as full-screen text at front and back of the film, which make no sense, the last informing us that after 1945, Peron transformed Argentina forever. I don't know what that has to do with the price of tea. Was the film made under censorship rules? Who knows? Several times, members of the rich family ask Julie Christie: 'Do you think we have too much money?' Perhaps the script writer was a closet socialist? Are we meant to be witnessing the decadence of the rich? This is never made clear. The madness of the mother and the older daughter are tragically portrayed, and the acting is good. The puppy love of the son for Julie Christie is extremely well done, and the actor most convincing. Most of the fascination of this film, which jumps confusingly back and forth in time over a period of 15 years, is the intense portrayal of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the rich family in their huge house in the middle of a very flat nowhere, surrounded by servants and cattle and with too little to do. We get sucked into this, partially because a real house and real locations are used, and it is all so authentic. The costumes are impeccable, and all the men spend all their time in perfect white suits which are never soiled and do not seem to wrinkle. The mad mother constantly plays Erik Satie's 'Gnossiennes' on the grand piano, very badly, but as it goes on for the entire film, it is in the end an effective if somewhat haunting and demented motif of isolation. We don't see films like this very often, and it is many years indeed since the films of Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, such as 'Summerskin', excited the film critics of New York and briefly and powerfully reminded people in the outside world that there is a country called Argentina which actually exists 'down there', wrapped in its own dream. If it weren't for the brilliant Borges, the memoirs of W. H. Hudson, the corrupt Eva Peron, and the magnificent tango, we might not even know that much.
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