Stars: Darío Grandinetti, Andrea Frigerio, Alfredo Castro
Set in 1975 Argentina, just prior to the military coup, writer-director Benjamín Naishtat’s picture is an allegorically rich and palpably clammy study of corruption and corrosive apathy. Grandinetti, probably best known here for his role in Almodóvar’s ‘Talk to Her’, is Claudio, a respected lawyer in a small town. Dining at a restaurant with his high maintenance wife Susana (Frigerio), he is harangued by a crazed stranger who accuses the couple of hogging the table. Claudio delivers an elegant putdown, much to the amusement of his fellow diners, and, humiliated, the interloper is thrown out. Outside the stranger accosts them again and a dramatic incident occurs. Later a friend of Claudio’s comes to visit asking him for help in buying a house from which the previous occupants have mysteriously disappeared. As Claudio attends his usual round of tennis matches, parties and floor shows, we encounter a range of characters, including sinister Chilean celebrity detective Sinclair (Castro), and a trio of American businessman cowboys who are being wined and dined by the town’s great and not-so-good. This is an intoxicating, immaculately-rendered melding of dark comic satire and paranoid political thriller, with the solar eclipse that occurs midway serving as an effective metaphor for the wilful indifference to the deteriorating political situation. The sour yellow and brown colour scheme and blood red titles effectively hark back to the 70s milieu, but this never feels like a pastiche. Grandinetti is outstanding as the morally compromised protagonist troubled by a flicker of conscience.