The dark side of the ’60s is presented in “Scars,” a memorably mature first film by veteran producer and documaker Patricio Coll. Adapted from a celebrated novel by Argentine writer Juan Jose Saer, script interweaves three separate, stark dramas until it climaxes in a single emotional peak. Pared-down camerawork and acting, sans musical comment, give film an unusual intensity which, when not diluted in overlong scenes, is highly effective. Professionally crafted, pic is well worth a look by specialized distribs.
All the characters, who talk in long, evenly paced speeches as if in a play, are on the fanatical side. Sergio (Omar Fantini) has given up his law practice and lives alone in a large house with a young maid.
A genteel life hides the secret of his gambling addiction, presented in a crescendo of illegal “gentlemen’s” poker games. Fantini’s hypnotic stare wears thin at times, but he hangs on to viewer sympathy through to a splashy, unexpected conclusion.
No less intense is Angel (Pablo Di Crocce), an apprentice journalist forced to write weather reports whose restless intellect obviously longs for more. His sluttish mother (Monica Galan, in a torrid turn) is the Oedipal thorn in his side.
Another wicked woman, Gringa (blazing-eyed blonde Maria Leal), makes life hell for her nervous husband (Vando Villamil), a union leader whose favorite sport is hunting. On a picnic with their young daughter, she pushes him over the edge.
Unabashedly literary and deliberately out of date in their stiff-collared suits and heavy makeup, the characters are so strongly drawn and maniacally acted they assume a life of their own.
Coll and cinematographer Esteban Courtalon create a neat, clean-cut look that eliminates unnecessary detail, leaving the stories and their generally appalling implications in closeup. Adding atmosphere is nonstop rain, which drenches almost every scene.