Tuesday, January 16, 2007

El Aura

Though the story of Fabien Bielinsky, who only managed to direct three films before dying of a heart attack in June at 47, is a tragic one, we're here today not to be depressed but instead to celebrate what he left behind.

His last two movies were "Nine Queens," which the director himself described as an "effervescent" heist movie, and "El Aura," which also involves a heist but has a lot more than that going on.

I managed to catch the latter with my brother last weekend in Atlanta, and I'm certainly glad I did. As much as a heist movie, it's about an ordinary guy who's presented with an odd opportunity, and how far he will go to seize it.

And the movie's strength is that it's central character, a nameless taxidermist played by Ricardo Darin, is actually kind of extraordinary in just how much he's removed himself from life. We see his taxidermist go through the methodical motions of his trade with no change in his expression. It helps that Darin has the face of someone truly beaten down by life. Think Serge Gainsbourg, then add a few more degress of roughness and you're getting warm.

We first sense he harbors some odd notions when, in line for his paycheck, he coolly details to a friend how he would rob the joint, recounting every detail and explaining that if it all went right, "no one need get hurt." When this friend invites him on a hunting trip, our hero soon finds himself presented with the opportunity to take the place of a man at the center of a plot to rob a casino, though to tell you any more than that would be a different crime I won't commit.

The beauty in Bielinsky's movie is seeing how methodically Darin, whose character is epileptic and possesses a photographic memory, picks up on the plan and puts himself right in the middle of it. "El Aura" refers to the state he goes into just before suffering a seizure, which contributes to his remarkable memory. Watching him piece it all together brought back memories of "Memento," and had he not died I'm certain Mr. Bielinsky would be as hailed as Mr. Nolan is today. It's a classic noir with a unique twist, and it almost all works perfectly.

My only beef, and it's a small quibble, is that Bielinsky is a little too in love with the scenery of Patagonia, which he filmed with a technique that renders it almost black and white but still beautiful. The movie does drag, however, when Bielinsky lingers on this set for too long. Cutting out three or so of the long shots of a pickup truck being driven down a mountain road would have trimmed some fat from this 138-minute flick without losing any of its flair.

But that doesn't change the fact that, to trot out a cliche used way too often but rarely correctly, they just don't make movies like this any more. And I guess Mr. Bielinsky won't either, but he did manage to make at least one movie that will stick with me for a long time. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go add "Nine Queens" to my Netflix list.

Oscars podcast coming

I'm still not even sure what a podcast is, but I will apparently be recording one later today. It will basically be Ryan Gilchrest, one of The Telegraph's online editors and a fairly far gone movie geek himself, and me making predictions on whose names we will hear when the Oscar nominations are announced next week.

I think it will be ready by this weekend, and I'll be sure to include a link here. Hopefully it will be at least mildly entertaining. I'll close today with this choice quote from Golden Globe winner Helen Mirren, on whether her penchant for playing royalty means her blood runs blue:

"I'm an Essex girl. You know how you know if an Essex girl has an orgasm? She drops her fries." Well put, dame Mirren


Anonymous said...

There's some lovely footage on the Golden Globes site of the post-award meet-the-press talk Mirren had... holding both awards! :o) http://www.hfpa.org/nominations/index.html
I especially like the question about whether either queen she portrayed this year has communicated with her regarding her performance.

Reel Fanatic said...

That link is indeed a hoot, Divinity ... she's just so funny, and it was a joy to see her having such a good time .. I doubt she'll be quite so loose-lipped at the Oscars, though

Marina said...

I hope I can catch "El Aura" around here. I doubt it but now I want to see it even more.

As for the podcast, this is fantastic! I can't wait to hear your predictions!

Linda said...

I loved Nine Queens, I'll keep my eyes open for El Aura. Thanks for the heads up! The podcast sounds cool, I'll be listening!

Reel Fanatic said...

I taped it today, and having heard it, I can at least say my voice isn't as grating as it once was when I listened to it ... I hope my predictions come fairly close to the end result, but who knows

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