Based on story ‘La Prueba’ by César Aira, and filmed already as an 18 minute short in 1999 by the same director with the same three female leads, Argentinean director Diego Lerman’s first full-length feature film Suddenly (Tan de repente) is a quirky, oddball road-movie that has won a number of international film awards.
Life is dull and routine for Marcia (Tatiana Saphir), an overweight girl working in a Buenos Aires lingerie store. She has recently been dumped by her boyfriend of two years, hasn’t been able to get over it and feels lonely, until one day she is accosted on the street by a pair of lesbian punks called Mao and Lenin (Carla Crespo and Véronica Hassan). Half-abducted and half-willing, just to find out where this out of the ordinary event will take her, Marcia is taken by the girls in a hijacked taxi out of the city. Out on the road, they find themselves in a small provincial town where Lenin’s aunt Blanca (Beatriz Thibaudín) lives.
The subject and plot of Suddenly is slight, but filmed with style by first time director Diego Lerman. Shot in 16mm the film has a rough, grainy, realistic quality that suits the subject, but there is nothing amateurish about the finished product, which is well-acted by the leads, nicely photographed and edited, with an excellent tango and bolero-inspired soundtrack. The film is often compared to Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise – a shortcut for saying that the film is leisurely paced, populated with quirky characters and has a dark, droll sense of humour. It true that not a lot happens in terms of plot development, but there is certainly some character development by the time we reach the end of the film.
Dramatically speaking, the resolution is a little too pat and convenient, but thematically it is spot-on. It’s all about female relationships – not necessarily lesbian or feminist, it also examines the dynamic that lies within the relationships of friends, lovers and family. Lenin, when she is with her family becomes Véronica and suddenly seems softer than the threatening-looking punk lesbian who swaggers down the street. Mao seeks to dominate in her relationships, forcing people to confront her and thereby react to her – either positively or negatively, it doesn’t matter which. Marcia is lonely, doesn’t know what she is looking for, but is willing to go along and hopes she will find out what she really wants from life. By the end of the film, each of the girls finds the right relationship that brings out the true person within – the ‘suddenly’ of the film’s title perhaps referring to the suddenness with which relationships commence, change form and end. It may be a little bit convenient and redemptive, but the resolution only serves to illustrate certain truisms about relationships, about the desire to control, the desire to be loved and the need for friendship.
Suddenly was filmed in black & white on 16mm and blown-up to 35mm for theatrical release. This gives the image a very grainy quality, but it is transferred superbly on Tartan’s release. A grainy picture like this is always susceptible to macro-blocking artefacts, but while the grain jumps around frequently, the picture remains solid and stable throughout. The film was apparently shown theatrically at the 1.75:1 aspect ratio and it has an anamorphic transfer to DVD at that ratio, but the image occasionally looks a little cropped top and bottom, particularly in close-ups. Again this could be a consequence of the transfer to 35mm. Tones are strong and there are no dustspots or marks of any kind, so this is an impressive picture.
Surprisingly, for such having such a lo-fi look and feel, the film comes not only with a good Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but a strong DTS 5.1 track that makes good and appropriate use of all speakers. A Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is also included – also clear and effective.
Optional English subtitles are included. Being white on a black and white film, they are not always as clear as they might be, but it is certainly better than having yellow subtitles on a b&w film. I didn’t have any problem reading the subtitles, which as far as I could make out through the difficult Argentinean pronunciation and barring the usual concerns about the inaccurate translation of swearwords (sometimes too strong for mild insults, sometimes not strong enough), translate the film’s dialogue very well.
The original short film would have been a nice extra feature to include here, but unfortunately there are no real extra features on the DVD apart from a Theatrical Trailer (1:23) presented in 1.85:1 letterbox and a Tartan Video Trailer Reel of other releases. The cover promises a 4-page insert with Selina Robertson film notes, but this wasn’t present with my review copy of the DVD.
Rather like the threatening characters of Mao and Lenin, Suddenly gives the initial impression of being rather edgy with its grainy black and white photography, sharp editing and unusual storyline – but like its characters it soon opens up its softer side, revealing a rather touching and funny examination of female relationships. Tartan’s DVD release maintains the high standard we have seen from the distributor recently. Although barebones, the DVD presents the film very well in terms of video and sound quality.
Last updated: 16/05/2018 19:31:04