|Argentine Film Festival Review: Dead Man and Being Happy|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Sunday, 21 April 2013 11:07|
Director: Javier Rebollo
“On a bench in the park sits an old man. If we look closer, we can see that he is wearing pyjamas under his coat.” That’s how Javier Rebollo’s likeable road movie begins – with an omniscient voiceover. That narration, from co-writer Lola Mayo, never leaves, predicting and subverting every action of our titular pensioner, a guy with three tumours, a bag full of morphine and over 100 kills to his name as a professional hit man. Learning he’s about to die, he ducks out on his last job and flees in his old Ford Falcon – accompanied by a woman who jumps into his backseat at a petrol station.
“She turns to Santos and asks where he’s headed,” says the voiceover. She turns to Santos. “Where are you headed?”
It’s a deliberately intrusive style, one that borders on annoying, but this self-aware comedy mines enough dry humour from its overly detailed narrator to get away with it. Travelling across Argentina, our odd couple take in everything from dusty old towns full of German pensioners dressed as cowboys and the ruined resort of Mar Chiquita.
“It’s the most beautiful place on earth,” Santos smiles at a pair of hitchhikers, before dropping them off in the wasteland, surrounded by rubble and washed up deckchairs.
José Sacristán’s deadpan weariness grows on you, dispatching wry comments more effectively than his unused gun, but it’s his co-star Roxana Blanco who keeps you interested; their unusual, understated relationship adds warmth to counter the detached presentation, a bond reminiscent of that in similar road romance Las Acacias (its writer Salvador Roselli had a hand in this script).
Rebollo’s bold sound design avoids music altogether, cutting between ambient noises and absolute silence as the narrator adds their own soundtrack over the top. It becomes a story as much about the locations they witness as Santos' own emotional journey towards acceptance of his past and his mortality; a grainy, diverting tour through a battered and worn down country that continues to drive on, despite anything life throws at it.
For more on London's Argentine Film Festival, see the official site - or read our films you should see at the 2013 Argentine Film Festival.