A delightfully unpredictable sleeper, "Suddenly," by Diego Lerman, tells of the "kidnapping" of a lonely, overweight lingerie saleswoman by two lesbian punkettes, who turn her world around -- and vice versa. It won awards at the Buenos Aires Independent Cinema Festival, and should work in markets attuned to Argentine filmmaking.

A delightfully unpredictable sleeper that proves new Argentine cinema really exists, “Suddenly,” by 26-year-old Diego Lerman, starts scary, moves through deadpan comic and comes out with a whimsical tenderness for its characters that audiences will share. Fleshing out his 1999 short film “The Proof,” loosely based on a Cesar Aira story, Lerman tells of the “kidnapping” of a lonely, overweight young lingerie saleswoman by two lesbian punkettes, who turn her world around — and vice versa. Outrageous, funny and hip, pic prods viewers to take sides and make judgments about situations in constant turnaround. It won a special jury prize and the audience award at last year’s Buenos Aires Independent Cinema Festival, and should work well in markets already attuned to Argentine low-budget filmmaking — and maybe even open a few doors to the genre.

Marcia (Tatiana Saphir) has come to Buenos Aires from the country and found a tedious job selling underwear in a little shop. With a pretty face but mucho pounds to spare, she has lost her b.f. and has almost no friends. One day, she attracts the attention of the super-cool Mao (Carla Crespo), who decides to bed her on a whim. Aided by the equally super-cool Lenin (Veronica Hassan), who looks just like her friend, Mao gets straitlaced Marcia into a taxi and takes off to “prove her love.”

The two tough little sharks hijack the cab at knife-point and blindfold Marcia. They end up on a remote beach, showing Marcia the sea for the first time in her life. A series of incidents later, they arrive at the house of Lenin’s aged aunt Blanca (Beatriz Thibaudin). Marcia finally loses her virginity, while Lenin reconnects with her aunt, who is hipper than any of them. As relationships shift, the characters reveal themselves in a new and deeper light.

Lensed in beautifully composed black-and-white by cinematographers Luciano Zito and Diego del Piano, film looks like a realistic road movie topped by irony, with a melancholy air under its bravado. Cast is right on target, with Saphir, Crespo and Hassan all playing straight in different ways, yet all ultimately quite believable.

Suddenly

B&W, Argentina

Production

A Lita Stantic Producciones/Nylon Cine production. (International sales: Lita Stantic, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Stantic, Diego Lerman. Directed by Diego Lerman. Screenplay, Lerman, Maria Meira, inspired by a short story by Cesar Aira.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Luciano Zito, Diego del Piano; editors, Benjamin Aviloa, Alberto Ponce; music, Juan Ignacio Bouscayrol; production designers, Mauro Doporto, Luciana Kohn; sound (Dolby Digital), Leandro de Loredo, Julian Caparros. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 5, 2002. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Marcia - Tatiana Saphir Mao - Carla Crespo Lenin - Veronica Hassan Blanca - Beatriz Thibaudin Delia - Maria Merlino Felipe - Marcos Ferrante
With: Ana Maria Martinez, Susana Pampin, Luis Herrera. (Spanish dialogue.)
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