2008

February 28, 2009
Cinequest 19
Argentina
Spanish / English
252 Minutes
Miriano Llinas

252 Minutes long. Get your head around that. What would you expect from a more-than-4 hour film in Spanish which takes place mostly in Argentina? Here’s the thing: there isn’t a single moment that drags. It’s the most amazing thing. We basically follow three different stories. The characters’ names are H, Y, Z. The fact that we don’t know their full names is just one of the charms. But what makes this film a particularly fulfilling experience is an almost perfect use of narration. And the use of time. Which is hard to explain. We’ve all seen films that use length of shots to their advantage. We’ve all been programmed to expect shots of a certain length. We notice when a filmmaker holds a shot longer than expected. Wong Kar Wai and Gus Van Sant to name a few. But director Miriano Llinas goes us one better. He holds a static shot for a long period of time, but he also films the shot from way, way back. So far away in fact that we can’t really tell who’s who. So in comes the narrator to tell us. “The farmer’s name is Rey.” [pause]. “He will hide a briefcase in a hay-bale” [pause where nothing happens and Rey doesn’t do anything]. “Here he goes.” [finally, Rey moves towards the hay bale]. This happens over and over. The narrator tells us what’s about to happen, nothing does, then the narrator says, okay now it’s going to happen. It’s a type of narration whereby the person could be sitting next to us and showing us a story that he filmed. This is hard to explain but a pleasure to experience. “The fat one will go to the truck and get a shotgun”. We wait from far away for what seems like five minutes “There he goes.” Then we see the fat guy go to the truck to get the gun. The narrator tells us what’s happening, sometimes WHILE it’s happening. This could seem simplistic, but for some reason it works pretty well. He also will explain a huge story about a minor character, with backstory, dreams, dark and happy experiences. We’ll spend ten or 15 minutes on these characters and at the end of the vignette, the narrator will say “this had nothing to do with what we’ve just seen” or, in a particularly funny scene, after a man has gone on and on about his theory of a crime, the narrator comes on to say “Every word he just said was wrong, he was correct about this crime in no way whatsoever.” So the narrator (and there are a half dozen) is there to correct wrongs, clarify plot moves, and explain what we’re seeing. The script for this film (setting aside it’s length, even) must have been much longer than usual. There is so much voiceover. Plot-wise, H is on a boat going up a river to settle another man’s bet. X witnessed a farmer’s murder, and is holding a stolen briefcase while holed up in a motel. Z is new in a management position and begins investigating the man who held his position for the previous 20 years. But those plot points in no way go far enough in explaining what’s going on, because with all the time we’re given to get to know these people, we can watch them do things slowly, in real time. A man watching the world outside his window; a man explaining the personalities of his co-workers; a man who is ridiculed by his colleagues but sets out for revenge; a woman who can easily manipulate the men in her life; the story of a gold heist gone wrong—each of these is given the time and energy they deserve. There are few loose ends.

Notes:
Perhaps the find of the festival. Nothing dull. I needed to see what happens next. Fantastic storytelling. Never dragging. Narration is perfect storytelling. “Nothing much happens”…long scene…”then it does”…long scene. Or “The fat man will go to his truck.” But on the screen nothing changes for a long 45 seconds. Then we see the man go to the truck. Narrator: “there he goes.” The scene is five minutes long with the narrator telling us what is about to happen just before it does, sometimes way before it does. The director tells us through narration and shows us through action. Hard to explain how well this works. Action sequences are done with a series of still photos. This is probably to save money. Rumors of a $50,000 budget were thrown around before the show started. It was more than four hours long. We got a break near the middle. Will the stories come together at the end? Will they go off in tangents that don’t mean anything? Which character should we most care about? This film has perhaps the best use of a narrator in movie history. It was like sitting next to someone late at night while they spin a yarn.

If you get a chance to see it, do.

8.5 IMDB (66 Votes)

HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS

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3 Responses to “HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS”
  1. [...] 1-HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS — Argentina — Three characters and their stories are told by an unseen narrator 2-SOF SHAVUA B’TEL AVIV (FOR MY FATHER) — Israel — Suicide bomber has 48 hours to live among, learn about, and fall for, the Jews he set out to kill 3-JOHNNY MAD DOG — Liberia — Boy soldiers ruthlessly kill and rape while overseen by older violent men 4-THE PHOTOGRAPH — Indonesia — Nightclub singer attempts to improve her life by becoming the assistant to an ancient photographer 5-FIRAAQ — India — Intertwining stories of Hindus and Muslims unsuccessfully living together in the era of terrorism 6-A NYOMOZO (THE INVESTIGATOR) — Hungary — Humorless pathologist is offered a payday if he kills someone he believes he has no tie to 7-MANNEN SOM ELSKET YNGVE (THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE) — Norway — A boy in a high school rock band is conflicted when he finds himself attracted to the new tennis-playing, artistic, beautiful boy even though he knows he has an almost perfect girlfriend 8-PAZAR-BIR TICARET MASALI (THE MARKET: A TALE OF TRADE) — Turkey — Struggling businessman tries to bring much-needed medicine across the border even though he won’t make a profit 9-BE HAMIN SADEGI (AS SIMPLE AS THAT) — Iran — Housewife and mother feels invisible and artistically stiffled 10-CE QU’IL FAUT POUR VIVRE (NECESSITIES OF LIFE) — Canada — Inuit man taken from his home and family for TB treatment in Quebec City in 1952 11-NOME PROPRIO (CAMILA JAM) — Brazil — Passionate young woman with no sense of privacy exposes her thoughts, secrets, dreams, and body to an eager online readership 12-UN AUTRE HOMME (ANOTHER MAN) — Switzerland — Man with no opinions of his own becomes film critic in small village by copying better-known critical material 13-FINNISCHER TANGO (FINNISH TANGO) — Germany — Con man pretends to be disabled and falls in with a group home and learns a little something about himself 14-RAMCHAND PAKISTANI — Pakistan — Father and son are taken into custody for wandering too near the Indian border and adjust to life in prison 15-TANDOORI LOVE — Switzerland — Indian chef on a film location falls for Swiss woman working in an alpine restaurant 16-EL CAMINO — Costa Rica — Children flee abusive grandfather and attempt to cross the border into Costa Rica from Nicaragua, but the dangers are at least as great on their journey as they were back at home [...]

  2. [...] 1-HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS — Argentina — Three characters and their stories are told by an unseen narrator 2-SOF SHAVUA B’TEL AVIV (FOR MY FATHER) — Israel — Suicide bomber has 48 hours to live among, learn about, and fall for, the Jews he set out to kill 3-JOHNNY MAD DOG — Liberia — Boy soldiers ruthlessly kill and rape while overseen by older violent men 4-THE PHOTOGRAPH — Indonesia — Nightclub singer attempts to improve her life by becoming the assistant to an ancient photographer 5-FIRAAQ — India — Intertwining stories of Hindus and Muslims unsuccessfully living together in the era of terrorism 6-A NYOMOZO (THE INVESTIGATOR) — Hungary — Humorless pathologist is offered a payday if he kills someone he believes he has no tie to 7-MANNEN SOM ELSKET YNGVE (THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE) — Norway — A boy in a high school rock band is conflicted when he finds himself attracted to the new tennis-playing, artistic, beautiful boy even though he knows he has an almost perfect girlfriend 8-PAZAR-BIR TICARET MASALI (THE MARKET: A TALE OF TRADE) — Turkey — Struggling businessman tries to bring much-needed medicine across the border even though he won’t make a profit 9-BE HAMIN SADEGI (AS SIMPLE AS THAT) — Iran — Housewife and mother feels invisible and artistically stiffled 10-CE QU’IL FAUT POUR VIVRE (NECESSITIES OF LIFE) — Canada — Inuit man taken from his home and family for TB treatment in Quebec City in 1952 11-NOME PROPRIO (CAMILA JAM) — Brazil — Passionate young woman with no sense of privacy exposes her thoughts, secrets, dreams, and body to an eager online readership 12-UN AUTRE HOMME (ANOTHER MAN) — Switzerland — Man with no opinions of his own becomes film critic in small village by copying better-known critical material 13-FINNISCHER TANGO (FINNISH TANGO) — Germany — Con man pretends to be disabled and falls in with a group home and learns a little something about himself 14-RAMCHAND PAKISTANI — Pakistan — Father and son are taken into custody for wandering too near the Indian border and adjust to life in prison 15-TANDOORI LOVE — Switzerland — Indian chef on a film location falls for Swiss woman working in an alpine restaurant 16-EL CAMINO — Costa Rica — Children flee abusive grandfather and attempt to cross the border into Costa Rica from Nicaragua, but the dangers are at least as great on their journey as they were back at home [...]

  3. [...] remains. For a more specific look at some of the charms, read Michael Vox’s delighted review from earlier this [...]

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Written by Michael W. Cummins