“My soul is not a coward / nor does it tremble in the tormented sphere of the world.” Those first lines belong to one of the best poems by Emily Brontë, the famous author of wuthering heights. It was the poem chosen by another Emily, Dickinson, to be read at her funeral. A poem that speaks of the soul and courage, of integrity in the face of torment, of faith as a shield from fear. “No coward soul is mine” in the original, a phrase that could have been impregnated with the last breath of Fanny Navarro, in a place so far from that frozen rectory in Haworth that she sheltered the Brontë family. The Río de la Plata in times of Peronism was the cradle of her art and her devotion, also the time of her glory before the tragedy. First the one about the death of her friend Evita, then the one about the fights and the internal contempt, then the 1955 coup and that long ban. Fanny colored her life with melodrama and she did it with the courage of believers, with the light of the forgotten stars, with the poetry that very few discovered.
Alfredo Arias and Ignacio Masllorens evoke the figure of Fanny Navarro from the present, and they do so within the framework of the city that gave her life and death: Buenos Aires. In those black and white streets, tinged with memories, marked by fame now extinct, by the new landscape of this future we live in, Fanny walks. She walks and walks. Fanny walks is the title of the film, premiered these days in the Lugones theater as a well-deserved tribute to Alfredo Arias, his work, his place as an artist and a porteño. “Fanny walks expresses my desire for cinema. A language that I imagine every day when thinking about the way I could approach it and the topics I could choose. It describes my relationship with my country, my hometown, Buenos Aires, and my personal relationship with Peronism since I declared myself a Peronist child in a family of radicals,” he told RADAR. Arias’ words combine the exercise of memory with the yearning for evocation, that of his own time and another’s, that of the character he has chosen for his landing on the screen, for his indelible signature as a filmmaker.
Fanny walks It is the first Argentine film by Alfredo Arias after years in theater, music, dance, that infinite set of his own fables. Exhibited together with his own documentary works and those in which he was a character –fans (2021) by Romina Ricci, The man with a thousand and one heads (2022) by Alejandro Arias; Hello Andy? (2022), a medium-length film about Andy Warhol by Arias, Masllorens and Juan Gatti, and the Clutter’s Work in Progress (2022), filmed in France by Arias himself together with the actress and director Laure Duthilleul-, the film lays bare both the memory of that forgotten actress, punished for her loyalty, cursed for her dedication, and that of that young Arias before his exile, whose inventiveness brings the past to life as if in an eternal dream. “Fanny Walks it is not a casual thematic choice, but the result of a long elaboration. My first staging in France was Eva Peron de Copi, where -at my suggestion- an actor embodied the mother of the people. Years later, I became interested in the relationship between the Spanish singer Miguel de Molina, persecuted by the Franco regime for being homosexual, and to whom Eva Perón grants political refuge. The show was called Tattoo. These paths naturally led me to a character in the shadow of Eva: her close friend Fanny Navarro”.
Images from a newsreel introduce us to the story, that of Fanny and her passion, that of Fanny and her tragedy. We are in 1950 and the cinema has laid out its red carpet for the new star. Rumors point to her as the new conquest of Juan Duarte, her friendship with Evita makes her the darling of Peronism. But those lights suddenly go out. The silhouette of an old radio contains an inquisitive voice that questions it. Fanny answers. About her life and her death. Like a ghost? Alejandra Radano embodies that voice damaged by injustice. In her firmness, her convictions are translated, those that did not abandon her, even before the horizon of opprobrium. “What am I accused of? Of fanaticism? Fanaticism is born in the beating of the heart and not in the cold calculations of the brain”, answers Fanny. The film avoids not only the biopic but any hint of naturalism. As Arias himself points out: “Together with Ignacio Masllorens we wanted this heteroclitic form to allow a poetic language to reveal a political fact. Buenos Aires is revealed as a fantomatic space between the past and the present, where a character from yesterday, by his mere presence, transforms his interlocutors into characters of his time, dragging them on his painful path of passion and disappointment ” .
Before Fanny walks there was disgraced, a theatrical piece created by Arias, Gonzalo Demaría and Alejandra Radano –supported by Marcos Montes- in which Fanny Navarro is exposed to a ruthless interrogation by a military intelligence agent of the Pedro Aramburu government nicknamed ‘Gandhi’. That is one of the starting points of the story. “That theatrical experience led us to get in touch with the details of Fanny’s tortuous and naive life,” explains Arias. That air of youthful ingenuity unfolds, upon her return, in a new awareness of the rubble of the past, an itinerary in which Fanny questions, she tries to elucidate that ordeal, that lost mecca. Like a ghost that wanders among the living, she is more alert than they are, lulled by a story that is already closed. Arias agitates in his review something more than the myths consecrated by time, ignore the warnings about that thorny time that should not be approached. A time when devotion became a danger, fanaticism a trap.
Fanaticism. A word that is repeated in the film. That deepens the exegesis of the link between Fanny Navarro and Eva Perón, beyond Peronism. An endearing friendship, marked by the communion of cinema, by those similar origins, by a female complicity in a world of men. “Alejandra Radano, in addition to having played the role of Fanny in disgraced, he actively collaborated with all kinds of written and visual documents that could contribute to the narrative. His participation was intense and active in the writing of the script, ”says Arias. Radano dresses Fanny as a melodrama, a melodrama without euphemisms or half measures, even in that spectral city of memory, mixed with the remnants of modern Buenos Aires that nestle in its now transformed streets. “Nicola Constantino was impregnated with the role of Eva, since he had already embodied her in his plastic and performative work Unfinished Rhapsody, which was presented at the Venice Biennale and later at the Fortabat Foundation. The intellectual and artistic relationship of the two actresses led to an immediate intimacy between them that allowed them to assume the characters with full depth. The friends Eva and Fanny did not realize that they were weaving a plot that would lead them to a shared tragic future.
The unbeatable company of Alfredo Arias in directing is led by Ignacio Masllorens, director, author of short films and documentaries, creator of tributes such as the one to Hugo Santiago together with Estanislao Buisel named Santiago’s theorem (2015) in tune with the aesthetic geometry of the director of Invasion. But here reverberates the memory of his short Habitat (2013), in the conversion of the urban landscape into a painter’s canvas, into the traces of an intrusive gaze. “Ignacio Masllorens made a minimalist and disturbing portrait of Buenos Aires in Habitat and that look interested me for Fanny walksArias recalls. “Buenos Aires, with its streets and its corners, establishes Fanny’s link with her tragedy and confers a suitable territory for her melodrama. At times, Fanny’s face narrates her past in the present of Buenos Aires. At other times, the destroyed facades of the cinemas of the present foreshadow the tragic future of her past.”
Fanny walks It is also a film about the city, about that Buenos Aires kept in the memory of cinema, in the fragments of Sucesos Argentinos, in theater posters and neon lights. But it is also the Buenos Aires that appears in the new Lavalle of bingo halls and shops, of distracted passers-by who walk without knowing that they are stepping on a piece of history. “The way we filmed allowed us to merge the Buenos Aires of the past with the current one” -explains Ignacio Masllorens in the interview with RADAR- to create a new, more timeless city, such as Alphaville or the Aquilea of Invasion. The city as a cut of geological layers that overlap periods and styles”. In this game of mutations, the real unfolds in its echoes and unfolding, and the historical archive coexists with invention, the projection of Dishonor in the Lugones room with the spectral voices of the divas, the illuminated signs and the iconic clock of the legislature.
From those tangible materials left by the past in the corners of that city, the idea of treasuring the return of Fanny Navarro on film was born. An austere project despite the audacity of her proposal, with a small team, without rigid schedules and a lot of freedom, as Masllorens assures. “Shooting in 16mm and Super 8 was a good way to meld Alfredo’s style with the language of cinema, while at the same time giving us an analogous and tangible record, akin to the textures, marks and grain of the archive. We were making a film about the life of a movie actress from the 40s and 50s, about Peronism, about Buenos Aires and about cinema. Filming it in a similar way to how cinema was made seventy years ago seemed essential to us, maintaining certain contemporary aesthetics and without falling into an imitation or parody of the modes of classic cinema. There is something phantasmagorical in this story, its characters are beings from the past who wander and repeat their lives in today’s Buenos Aires, as if we ourselves could not leave or overcome our own history”.
César Maranghello and Andrés Insaurralde wrote in Fanny Navarro or an Argentine melodrama a thorough and passionate study of that ephemeral star of early Peronism. Her rise from the radio dramas sponsored by soap Palmolive and the choirs of extras on the Maipo stage to her name on the poster next to that of Tita Merello in die in his law (1949) by Manuel Romero or her stamp as president of the Eva Perón Cultural Athenaeum. A fleeting time, evaporated in punishments and revenge. The look of Arias and Masllorens turns that story around, returns it to the present, confronts it with its own mythology. Fanny is then protagonist and spectator, voice of her fervor, analyst of her fall. She walks the streets with the avidity of the forgotten, with the haste of the one who has left without saying goodbye to her. “I am not sure that Fanny Navarro was aware of the political threads in which she would be caught. She became a dangerous character ratting out other artists. The price she had to pay was disproportionate and in some way comparable to her fervor,” Arias concludes. Fanny walks also among its contradictions, without losing step, without giving in to any confinement. Between vanity and whims, between tears for Eva and the fury of her inquisitors. In that city where she waits for her and receives her, as in her lonely last hour, “as –Masllorens summarizes- in those photographs that unknowingly capture images of specters that only appear once revealed”.