Review: ‘Beach Resorts’

A highly inventive disquisition on the socio-geographic phenomenon known as "the beach resort," Argentinean helmer Mariano Llinas' first feature-length venture is divided into four distinct parts, each with its own format and tone. Unfortunately, rhythm and economy take a backseat to untrammeled self-expression and pic suffers greatly from slack pacing.

A highly inventive disquisition on the socio-geographic phenomenon known as “the beach resort,” Argentinean helmer Mariano Llinas’ first feature-length venture is divided into four distinct parts, each with its own format and tone. Sections range from a noir-ish retelling of the saga of the Atlantic Hotel in Argentina to satiric commentary on the strange rituals of human waterfront migrations. Unfortunately, rhythm and economy take a backseat to untrammeled self-expression and pic suffers greatly from slack pacing. “Resorts” may attract more patient TV auds, drawn by shared aquatic memories and the facile ironies of seaside kitsch.

It’s extremely hard to tell to what extent any story in the documentary is strictly true. Pic opens with a brief prologue of ’50s home movies that wax nostalgic for the beaches of an earlier era. That is followed by an evocative black-and-white photo novella composed of stylized snapshots depicting titillating fragments of the blackmail, murder and grand passion that make up the legend of the ill-fated Atlantic Hotel.

Radically switching gears, pot bellies and balding pates dominate the second act as a disingenuous National Geographic-type narrator comments on the oddities of beach behavior. In the third installment, a little man in a rowboat takes viewers on a guided tour of the submerged attractions of an underwater city of which they can see absolutely nothing: the tops of a few dead trees and a smattering of crumbling waterlogged buildings stand in for a supposed mini-Atlantis. Playing like a tongue-in-cheek “Ghosts of the Abyss,” a dive into the ocean retrieves only images of a disconnected gas nozzle swaying in the water surrounded by bubbles.By far the longest and slowest-moving seg is the last, built around Zucco, genial repository of local color and beach resort lore. His discourses at length about inland lakes caused by the damning and diking of rivers in the great ’50s rush toward generating electricity. A beauteous babe, signally absent heretofore, is seen running into the sea and splashing joyously in the waves as a farewell coda, closes “Resorts” in silent black-and-white splendor.

Tech credits are uneven, due largely to the run-on nature of certain segments whose campily jaunty music and mock-docu sincerity feel forced after a while.

Beach Resorts

Argentina

Production

A Universidad del Cine/Aeoplano Cine/Mariano Llinas production. Executive producer, Manuela Willimburgh. Directed by Mariano Llinas. Screenplay, Augustin Mendilaharzu.

Crew

Camera (color, B&W, video), Lucio Bonelli; editor, Augustin Rolandelli; music, Gabriel Chwojnik; sound, Federico Esquerro. Reviewed at Havana Film Festival, New York, April 1, 2003. Running time: 81 MIN.
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