Mar del Plata Festival: Trenque Lauquen, winner of Best Latin American Feature Film

A brief analysis of the film that won the top prize in the Latin American Competition. Trenque Lauquen, directed by the Argentine filmmaker Laura Citarella.

In ostend (2011), Citarella (producer of almost all the films of El Pampero Cine) made the most of her cinephile vision, displaying clear and direct reminiscences of masterpieces in the history of cinema with a capital H as rear window (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock. With that intriguing piece of mystery and spatio-temporal reflexivity, Laura Paredes (also the protagonist of Lauquen Train) discovers a dense crime (or something like that) while looking out a window from a hotel. In Lauquen Trainthe main style traits that seduced the 2011 debut feature are repeated, although with greater subtlety that works as a complicit reminder for the attentive viewer: a game of winks and references to which we are invited as if it were a fascinating riddle.

The plot

Laura (Paredes) is lost. Ezequiel (Pierri) and Rafael (Spregelburd) look for her in the southwest of the province of Buenos Aires. She is (almost) a biologist, and apparently got lost in search of a missing plant specimen that remained to be classified for her research. She had been in the town of Trenque Lauquen developing that work, but there she herself had been involved in a series of attractive mysteries. In the first part of the film, we get to know one of them: an old love story through correspondence, hidden among the pages of old books in the town’s library. The remaining mystery, in the second part of the film: an unknown creature appears in the municipal lagoon… In the middle: romances, flashbacks, myths and intricacies. Citarella’s new film is another captivating audiovisual piece of the pampas.

Lauquen Train it is a bit more extensive and complex than previous Laura Citarella films. More characters, more places, more rural landscapes, more streets, mud, grass and background music. There is almost a duplication of these aspects that operate in order to generate an attractive and heavy climate of estrangement. It is that the characteristic style in the films of El pampero consists of this set of aesthetic operations: the constitution of the estrangement of the everyday as a pre-eminent sensation, but not as the synthesis of the ambiguous or unknowable transposed to the sound and visual dimension, but like the need to invent passionately intricate stories from a piece of Buenos Aires land that is too ordinary.

That is what it is all about: estrangement from the familiar but not subject to the psychoanalytic vision of the concept. The rarity of the common and familiar lands in Lauquen Train like an invisible and tacit spectrum that becomes explicit when it is named among ironies, mockery and overlapping fears on a local radio program, or in suspended and lethargic chats over coffee and craft beer. A monster in the lauquen train (round lagoon, in indigenous language) of the people; a high epistolary mystery of two lovers too conditioned by the eternal inconceivable dilemmas of love. That is estrangement.

The characters, the mystery

In the sound images of Lauquen Train reverberate the visual and narrative imaginaries of extraordinary stories (2008) by Mariano Llinás. The characters in these films, far from fitting into the stereotypes of small-town social actors outlined by the predictable logic of too ported, they rebel exposing reactions and gestures typical of a literary characterization taken from a story by Roberto Arlt. If there is romanticization and costumbrismo in any scene, it seems to be more parody than anything else.

They are not necessarily common and everyday characters. They are, in any case, extraordinary, as Llinás exacerbates in his 2008 compendium of stories. Citarella also dares this juxtaposition of stories, through time jumps and games of points of view that lead us to immerse ourselves more fully in the thread. of mysteries and personal micro-fictions (and those of others). Everything mixes and intermingles, as we collect the clues that allow us to glimpse some kind of timely resolution.

Frustration will come, never being able to fully put together the blessed puzzle, a bittersweet feeling of disappointment that we can see in Rafael’s disjointed expression, towards the end of part I, in the most comical and parodic scene of the film, set in the desolate scenarios of the Municipality of Trenque Lauquen, its science-fictional streets and its haunted park.

permanent cinephilia

The images of the films of El pampero exude permanent cinephilia. Someone may not consider himself a staunch movie buff, but by plunging into these multiverses one can feel that mixture of reminiscences to the cinema. We are not necessarily referring to that accommodation in the commonplace of pure and direct homage, because layers and sublayers of subtleties accumulate; but it is necessary to recognize the reference to the dramatic strategies par excellence that classic cinema has been able to proclaim as an irrefutable paradigm.

All this flourishes in works like Lauquen Train without falling into the reductionist classification of stating that it is “a typical classic Hollywood movie.” It is almost even problematic to engage in this type of debate from critics, when we are still going through a certain period of commotion and shock due to the premiere of Argentina, 1985co-written by Mariano Llinás (director of the bombastic The flower, 2018), leader? creative of the self-managed film production company to which we refer. Because, precisely, Santiago Miter’s film has been branded as extremely classic and internationalizable. Is that wrong? It would deserve a separate analysis… For the distracted, Mariano is the brother of Verónica Llinás (who in her fleeting appearances dazzles with her magic in part II of Lauquen Train and also stars in Citarella’s previous film: The woman of the dogs).

style and detectives

But then, speaking of stylistic traits (that is to say: ways of doing things strictly linked to an aesthetic current or filmmaker), we can list some hackneyed (hence classic) but always effective expressive mechanisms: the voice-over of the character as the common thread that he narrates and projects the events in retrospect with the parsimony and tension with which a literary fable is told, the subjective shots anchored to the intrusive look of a character from panoramic frames to the “rear window” style. voyeuristicthe intentional reference to works and myths such as that of Lady Godiva or Autobiography of a sexually emancipated woman (1926) by Aleksandra Kolontái, and many more…

The ambitious ingenuity of the Lauras (Citarella and Paredes), mentors of the film, advances in the plot until forcing the viewer to do the analogous quasi-detective work that their characters do. But to consider those clues and unknowns we need time: the film lasts more than four hours. Is that Lauquen Train it offers pauses and dramatic balms to reflect and conjecture… study the variables attended to in order to draw any possible inferences about it. This is crucial: why is it so difficult for us in the cinema to consider the importance of moments of pause, of between images or parentheses, as Godard would say? Well, it’s obvious, in today’s vertiginous presentist there is no time to evaluate, theorize and hypothesize. In that sense, this film enables that possibility, and that is why the viewer can feel part of that universe. And feel detective.

final mentions

If any final mention remains to be made, we should praise the constant repetition of the song “Los caminos” by Miro and his Fabulous Toy Orchestra. Finally, thank you that, although ironic rereadings are noted regarding the tradition of “the small town” (from implicit micromachismos to typical contrasts of “city gaze versus mirada de pueblo”), there are no subterranean moralines deployed.

There is, of course, a well-marked ethical-aesthetic (or political-poetic) look, where the inexorable feminist perspective of this type of contemporary film also flourishes; but the most important thing is that we are facing a story of characters as intriguing as they are fascinating that invite us to mystery and science fiction. In a small town in the south of the province of Buenos Aires. That’s all, and it’s not little.

Mar del Plata Festival: Trenque Lauquen, winner of Best Latin American Feature Film