Argentinian cinema comes to the fore as Synapse Films release Rodrigo Grande’s 2001 award winner, Rosarigasinos. Mark Lee reviews.
Shortly after the little n’ large combo of Tito and his loyal friend Castor make a dazed, blinking, tearful exit from a 30 year prison stint in Rodrigo Grande’s multi-award winning Argentine film, Rosarigasinos, the rain falls heavily from above and marks a cleansing, tentative start to the remainder of their lives. Yet their dreams of a peaceful, comfortable, and law-abiding return to the real world are slowly disassembled as trouble lurks around every corner.
Things have changed somewhat during the 30 years incarceration our gentlemanly gangster duo have endured; former gangster buddies have gone straight, trees that didn’t exist when they stepped inside now tower high above them, and gangster pal Fatso rolls around the neighbourhood in a Citroen 2CV! Worst of all, the illegitimately gained money the guys secreted safely in the murky river before their sentence, has disappeared, along with their dreams for the future.
Rosarigasinos adopts an interesting and effective mechanism to develop the plot. Scenes of the two aging gangsters’ progress are interleaved with interviews of those they encounter on their journey, recounting descriptions of their capers and providing alternative perspectives to the initially unseen interviewer.
The film executes some other impressive techniques and ideas too. There’s the amusing scene where Tito and Fatso’s argument over the slicing of profits for a proposed job is played out on a football pitch like a duel, with both men marching away from each other purposefully, shouting out their prices, with poor Castor mediating in the centre. The loyal Castor is also the centrepiece when a police beating leaves the old man curled up in a frail and significantly foetal position against a dirty red floor. The most stunning and touching scene, however, is where our gangster duo takes to the stage in a murky little bar and performs a song reminiscing about their younger years; the friends, the drinks, the girls. The camera swings across the performers into the darkness behind, and seamlessly weaves memories of their earlier, carefree years into a touching, dynamic montage. It’s a solidly executed section that perfectly presents their reluctant acceptance of the inexorable attrition time has waged against them, and it’s difficult not to be moved.
There are some occasions where ideas could have been taken a step further. The gangsters’ frantic, desperate realisation when discovering the money has disappeared, for instance, is documented using a neat spiralling aerial view of the two sitting men, yet you can’t help but feel that the technique is not sustained long enough to provide the tension the moment deserves.
In truth though, the flaws and understatements do little to detract from what is an enjoyable and careful picture that doesn’t rely upon graphic violence to entertain. This film is all about our friends, the old Rosarigasinos, and their adventures, their memories, and their dreams.
The film is presented using an Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, and whilst I’m sure the transfer itself is well executed, the film stock does show some minor signs of wear, with the odd fleck here and there. The image can also lack a certain amount of clarity, with Tito’s bright white suit often clouding the lines around him. Colours are also a little jaded.
The sound utilises Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, but the audio reproduction is not a factor that will stand out for you. That said, the sound quality is commensurate with the film, and fits in appropriately with the worn surroundings our characters move between. The sound track is also an important part of the film, and you’ll find it hard not to enjoy the Bandoneon-driven music (a Bandoneon, as played by Castor in the film, is similar to an accordion), which lends proceedings an appropriately gangster-esque but similarly chirpy nature.
The English subtitles are clearly presented in white and I don’t recall any overlap with Tito’s bright white suit! What is strange is that every so often, some separate subtitles also appear in a different area of the screen, in a different language.
Chapter selections. Unfortunately, that’s your lot.
From the opening credits with the black and white photographs of days gone by, through to the dramatic conclusion, you’ll take these likeable Rosarigasinos into your heart. For it’s the sometimes paranoid, sometimes violent, but ultimately touching relationship between these two old friends that makes this modest but charming Argentine film such an enjoyable adventure.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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