2006 was a dark year for Argentine cinema. Not only because of the quality of the films released, but for the sudden passing of two of its major filmmakers: Fabián Bielinsky, 47, and Eduardo Mignogna, 66. Mignogna’s death, three weeks ago, marked the end of the career of one of the most consistent Argentine filmmakers of the older generation, the creator of films such as Autumn Sun, The Lighthouse and The Wind, all of them classically told stories of people going through difficult circumstances. Bielinsky’s case was even more shocking. With only two films in his résumé (Nine Queens and El Aura), the filmmaker surprised everybody with two thrillers, both perfectly executed and very different from each other; two “puzzles of the mind” that grabbed the viewer not only through the complexity of the plots but through their dark and morally ambiguous protagonists. Watching both films together, which will be possible during the American Cinematheque’s tribute to Bielinsky on the final night of this year’s New Argentine Cinema series, brings forward not their differences (mainly of style and setting) but their similarities. Both examine questions such as what is real and what is not, how the mind can create and even transform reality, and both paint a dangerous world in which you can’t trust what’s in front of your eyes. Apart from the Bielinsky “retrospective,” the two best films in the program are Tiempo de Valientes and Roma. The first, by Damian Szifron (The Bottom of the Sea), follows the classic formula of a mismatched pair of men (a depressed policeman and his even more confused shrink) trying to solve a murder case and each other’s personal crises. You can think of it as True Lies meets Analyze This, which is pretty much what this funny and inventive film aspires to. Roma is the very personal, touching and sad new drama by veteran director Adolfo Aristarain (Time of Revenge, A Place in the World). Working without the help of his usual alter ego, actor Federico Luppi (who also worked with Mignogna), Aristarain here focuses on an Argentine writer, now living in Spain, who writes his memoirs of the 1950s through the ’70s, in which his mother (Susú Pecoraro, in the title role) serves as his moral guide through life. The rest of the program mixes mediocre family films like Patoruzito 2 with popular ones like Moon of Avellaneda, in which Juan José Campanella combines — in a similar vein to his previous movie, Son of the Bride — inventive bits of humor with a heavy dose of melodrama. Winning awards in Tribeca and San Sebastian, Tristan Bauer’s Iluminados por el Fuego (Enlightened by Fire) is about the struggle of the survivors of the 1982 Falklands War against Great Britain. American Cinematheque at the Egyptian and Aero theaters; through Sun., Oct. 29. www.americancinematheque.com.
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