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The Argentine Classics: Your Expat Movie Starter Pack

By | [email protected] | July 25, 2016 8:38pm

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The best part of saying goodbye to your friends at the end of a night is to gaze creepily into their eyes when they bid you farewell and say: “This is not goodbye. Because it wasn’t over. It’s still not over!” Just like the best part of sharing Fernet and Cola is skipping over your friend saying “and none for Gretchen Wieners.” I could go on.

The point is, in order to truly understand the culture of a place, you should probably watch their films. Given the rich movie culture in Argentina past and present, it’s rather a crime not to immerse yourself and at the very least be able to stare your ex-novio in the eyes and say slowly “When poison is expired, is it more or less harmful?” and saunter away as he frantically pours out his drink. For example.

So if you are new to Argentina and you’ve not yet tested your castellano with the silver screen… here you have it, six films for this rainy grey winter so that you text your friends, “Sorry, I can’t come, I’m watching a movie.”

El Secreto de Sus Ojos (2009)

It’s hard to have a list about argentine films without listing this one first, it’s the very first thing most people will tell you watch when you arrive. It’s also the most recognized internationally as it was remade for Hollywood with Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor as…wait for it… “Ray” and “Jess.” Don’t get me started.

It’s a bit difficult to describe in words the magic of a film that manages to capture all the regret and nostalgia one might have in life in less than two hours: career, injustice, but most of all lost love. The first argentine film to win the best foreign film oscar in over 20 years, it traces the love and the lives of two former partners (one of whom is played by legend Ricardo Darín) who cannot forget an old unsolved murder case. Maybe that sounds like an old episode of Law & Order SVU to you, but believe me when I say that you will walk around the rest of the week shouting at your friends “You. said. Life.”

Relatos Salvajes (2014)

This is another film that you will hear thrown around often in conversation as a modern classic. Though it came out just two years ago, I include it for its cultural proliferation (and proliferation of Darín, it stars Ricardo, again. Darín for everyone!) Relatos Salvajes, aka Wild Tales, tell multiple stories of people confronted with their own extreme emotions, each one more hísterico than the last.

Perhaps to the viewer accustomed to Hollywood linear storytelling, Relatos Salvajes is difficult to understand. (“Oh my god is he peeing on the car? Is that necessary?” Someone who is certainly not me might think to themselves.) But once you sink into the style of storytelling, you will not be able to look away from the intoxicating drama playing out on the screen. It’s what makes it so relatable, the inflated emotions that on a micro scale play themselves out in everyone’s daily life — violence, vengeance, the Department of Motor Vehicles. Watch all the way to the end, trust me when I say that you’ll want to reference that wedding scene when talking about your dating life from now on, you dramatic boluda.

Nueve Reinas (2000)

Another vehicle for Ricardo Darín (he’s Kevin Bacon, but you only need 1 degree), this film was yet another instant classic. It tells the story of two con-men and well, it’s one of things where you just have to see it to understand. Annoying isn’t it? I would tell you more, but do you want me to be like those people who tells you that Jon Snow dies lives? Exactly. Just watch the trailer. Rest assured that this movie is iconic, and you can impress your friends by running around quoting it. And, yes, like most successful Argentine films, this one was remade by Hollywood starring John C. Reilly and Diego Luna… I don’t know you guys, there aren’t explanations for every injustice in the world.

Tiempo de Valientes (2005)

Tiempo de Valientes (aka On Probation) does not star Ricardo Darín. Take a moment. Okay then, the Damián Szifrón film follows an odd friendship; a depressed cop and his psychologist who as it turns out have both been cuckolded. And on their way to becoming fast friends, they uncover criminal conspiracies. As one does. One could call it the argentine take on a buddy comedy, but that does not quite do it justice. One could also call it The Pelican Brief meets Oceans 11 meets Analyze This, but I’m afraid of the comments section.

La Historia Oficial (1985)

La Historia Oficial tells the story of a woman who begins to suspect that her adopted five year old may be  the child of a desaparecido — a dissident murdered by the regime of Jorge Rafael Videla — and the events that unfold as a result. It’s a thoughtful, if harrowing tale, that gives voice to the surreal nightmare that remains a sociopolitical reality for Argentina. The film (which came out in 1985) was conceived during the years of the dictatorship and initially the director Luis Puenzo planned to shoot the movie in secret. One of the film’s stars, Norma Aleandro, lived in exile during those years. That’s how raw and relevant it is was at the time and still is. Apparently the Academy Awards thought so as well, the film was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Esperando La Carroza (1985)

Cozy up with this film and raise a glass of wine to Mamá Cora, the mother who makes you call your own and tell her you are sorry for being an ungrateful child. This black comedy is a cult classic from the 80s and still reruns on television to high ratings. I guess that makes it like The Sound of Music except that it has nothing to do with The Sound of Music. But I digress, the movie takes place on a Sunday and follows Mamá Cora and her grown children living in cramped quarters in a house in Buenos Aires (you can visit that house! Field trip!) Again, I don’t want to spoil this one for you, but it’s bleak and it’s funny and you should probably go watch it if for no other reason than to be able to finally understand the catch phrases your friends’ parents have been dropping into conversation all this time. Mamaaaaaa!

I know, I know. You are sitting there screaming at your screens, but where is Patagonia Rebelde, where is Pizza, Bira, Faso, where is Carancho, where the hell is 76-89-03? Where is a single Alejandro Agresti film? To which I say: Go forth! Watch them too! There are an overabundance of deeply moving and deeply hilarious films out there that just happen to be argentine. You’ll be saying to your friends as they try to snatch Pokémon Go away “Una pasión es una pasión” in no time.