a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for August 2010

The Secret in their Eyes / El secreto de sus ojos

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Well deserved 2010 Academy Award winner for best foreign language film, Juan José Campanella’s The Secret in their Eyes opens with retired criminal investigator Benjamin Espósito (Ricardo Darin) finishing a novel based on a case he worked on some 25 years earlier, in the 1970s. The unresolved brutal murder and rape of young woman became the turning point in his life.  Through a series of flashbacks the who-done-it is laid out with pinpoint accuracy, even if there are some plot devices that beg for some serious suspension of disbelief. But Campanella pulls it off, largely with an exceptional cast of Argentine regulars. Comic star Guillermo Francella as Pablo, Benjamin’s best friend and co-worker, pulls off one of the best performances of the year with his drunken inspirations, comic moments and ultimately heart-rending performance.  As every very good mystery deserved a story of unrequited love and The Secret in their Eyes delivers in spades with Benjamin’s 30-year crush on his beautiful boss, Irene (Soledad Villamil).  And a simultaneously creepy and moving wraps the whole thing up brilliantly.

Published in EL Magazine, August 2010

In the City of Sylvia / En la ciudad de Sylvia

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Catalan director Jose Luis Guerin’s masterpiece In the City of Sylvia is like a Hitchcock film abstracted through the eyes – and ears – of Robert Bresson. Apart from the stunning visuals, Sylvia’s sound design mesmerizes. A twenty something young man (Xavier Lafitte) comes to Strasbourg. He spends a day at a café, sketching customers, sees a beautiful brunette (Pilar López de Ayala) whom he begins to follow.  After a long an abstract and labyrinthine cat and mouse game, he finally accosts her in a tram convinced she is Sylvia, a woman he met 6 years earlier.  Guardedly responding to her stalker, she says she isn’t. He apologizes profusely. Later that night he goes to a bar and picks up a young woman. The next day finds him at a bus stop, people watching and eventually seeing “Sylvia” again on a passing tram.  With this simple backbone, Guerin builds a strange, beguiling and touching film. Part essay in cinematic voyeurism, part reflection on obsession, desire and mystery, In the City of Sylvia is a wholly original cinematic experience.

Published in EL Magazine, August 2010