Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Title:El Aura
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Dolores Fonzi, Pablo Cedrón, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Jorge D'Elía, Alejandro Awada, Rafael Castejón, Manuel Rodal, Walter Reyno
Director:Fabián Bielinsky

Esteban Espinosa is a quiet taxidermist, with a sharp mind. His epilepsy causes some problems now and then, things at home aren't great. Doing some work for the local museum he talks to a colleague, a fellow taxidermist. Esteban has this thing, no matter where he is, he is taking in detail, thanks to a photographic memory he doesn't miss a detail. With that he turns his thoughts to perfect crimes, ways to get in and out of places, and pull off a job with no one getting hurt. As far as the other taxidermist is concerned its just one of those boring things Esteban does, but he invites him to go on a hunting trip anyway.

Esteban is reluctant. But when his wife leaves him, he changes his mind. So the two set off from the Argentine capital to head to the country for a hunting weekend. However Esteban quickly offends his host, who then has to leave because of family problems. So Esteban finds himself down there by himself, staying in a lodge off the beaten track because the hotel was full. Its the last weekend of the local casino in it's current form and the small town is filled with people. Of course, as soon as we are told this bit of information, we know that somehow Esteban is going to become interested on how the casino could be robbed.

The pieces fall together one by one. And sure enough Esteban takes the opportunity that is presented to him. But the question is - is he as good as he thinks? Will the stress of the real thing trigger his epilepsy at a key moment? Will he actually be able to keep track of every piece of information when it really counts? The film progresses in a fatalistic manner, the attentive audience can see things that Esteban can't, so we have an insight, which adds to the gripping delivery.

El Aura was the second film by directed Fabián Bielinsky, whose debut film Nine Queens gained some acclaim on the world cinema circuit, creating something of a buzz. In the baffling way of these things, the film was subsequently remade as a kind of indie American film - Criminal - which was apparently decent, though I never got round to seeing it. Ricardo Darín is recast from the conman of Nine Queens to the intense taxidermist of El Aura, and once again he delivers an intent and convincing performance. Sadly last year, director Fabián Bielinsky died of a heart attack, in his mid-40s, with two of the strongest films to come out of South America in recent years - how many more could he have done?

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