Acritics' pic designed to puzzle, please and provoke, "Moebius" has "cult" written all over it. The idea of a brain-twisting Borgesian parable made by amateurs about Argentine desaparecidos (political dissidents who "disappear" from police custody) raises eyebrows in the most positive way. This subversive, willfully anti-commercial university project checks in as original and gripping arthouse fare, deserving a healthy run on the fest circuit at the very least, with offshore sales a possibility.

Acritics’ pic designed to puzzle, please and provoke, “Moebius” has “cult” written all over it. The idea of a brain-twisting Borgesian parable made by amateurs about Argentine desaparecidos (political dissidents who “disappear” from police custody) raises eyebrows in the most positive way. This subversive, willfully anti-commercial university project checks in as original and gripping arthouse fare, deserving a healthy run on the fest circuit at the very least, with offshore sales a possibility.

Daniel Pratt (Guillermo Angelelli) is a topographer called in by the Buenos Aires subway system to solve an unusual problem: One of its trains, carrying 30 passengers, is missing. Daniel must locate his former teacher, Hugo Mistein (Jorge Petraglia), designer of the system, but finds nobody at his house apart from a young girl, Abril (Annabella Levy). He does, however, find the plans.

Careful study reveals the subway system is now so sprawling that it has a potentially infinite number of connections. The missing train — though it can still be heard — now exists in the fourth dimension of space and time.

The authorities are brought in, and pic takes a comic turn as a group of hard-faced, besuited bureaucrats listen aghast to Daniel’s earnest explanation. Their rigid denial that this could actually have happened is where the pic’s political point lies — one that a grasp of Argentine politics makes easier to understand. When Daniel finally boards a subway train — which Borges look-alike Mistein is riding — it’s for a final confrontation with the infinite.

Pic’s human interest is centered on Blasi (experienced thesp Roberto Carnaghi), the troubled director general of the system, whose increasing despair is registered in unforgiving closeup.

Apart from Blasi, there is no real characterization. Daniel’s intense, focused gaze and cropped hair represent the single-minded pursuit of truth. Abril represents the innocent’s ability to arrive at the right answers by instinct. The men in suits represent men in suits. Everything is deliberately schematic.

Pic looks as cold, clear and cerebral as the theorem it brings to life, and is clearly the work of people who have an academic interest in cinematic purity. Chilling blue subway hues collide with intimately shot textures of human skin. Camera angles are occasionally pretentious but mostly effective. The challenge of filming a train as it hurtles through infinity is bravely — and dizzyingly — attempted.

Tech credits, particularly sound and special effects, are superb.

Moebius

(ARGENTINE)

Production

A Universidad de Cine (Buenos Aires) production. (International sales: Lolita Lechner, Horacio Urban, Madrid.) Produced by Universidad de Cine. Directed by students from Universidad de Cine, under general direction of Gustavo Mosquera R. Screenplay, Arturo Onativia, Natalia Urruty, Gabriel Lifschitz, Pedro Cristiani, Maria Angeles Mira, Mosquera R, based on a story by A.J. Deutsch.

Crew

Camera (color), Abel Penalba; editor, Pablo Giorgelli, Alejandro Brodersohn; music, Mariano Nunez West; production design, Angeles Mira; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Grignaschi; assistant director, Urruty, Emiliano Torres. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 22, 1996. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

With: Guillermo Angelelli, Roberto Carnaghi, Annabella Levy, Jorge Petraglia.

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