Three characters in Paris painfully relive their past in Buenos Aires and try to overcome it in the parallel stories of “Red Sunset.” Compared to Edgardo Cozarinsky’s previous films like “One Man’s War,” “Ghosts of Tangiers” and “Rothschild’s Violin,” “Red Sunset” is far more familiar in the ways it brings past and present together through flashbacks, videos, memories and fantasies. At the same time, it is too emotionally chilly to warm auds far outside the director’s coterie of followers, foretelling difficulties for the film beyond festivals.
Michel (Bruno Putzulu), who is a nice young man, has come to Paris to escape the economic disaster in Argentina. But his plans to sell a valuable painting he inherited crumble when an art dealer informs him it was confiscated from a Jewish family, presumably by his French father working for the Vichy government, during WWII. Michel’s dilemma is a tantalizing introduction to the theme of people caught up in the past, like it or not.
Adding another layer to the ethical question, the dealer turns out to be a crook who works with a talented art forger, David (Feodor Atkine). David undergoes his own moral crisis when, sent to Hungary to bilk an impoverished old countess (Elisabeth Kaza) out of her last painting, he decides to warn her she’s stepping into a trap. Here the film takes off down a dark alley, as he remembers the girl he loved in Buenos Aires; she was murdered under torture during the military dictatorship of the ’70s. How this ties in with his current change of heart is simply not clear, however.
Narrative thread is echoed in the story of Clara (Marisa Paredes), a psychoanalyst. She receives a life-changing shock when a patient commits suicide in front of her. At the same time, she is mailed an old home movie by a dying friend that stirs memories of her youth as a political militant in Argentina. It also reminds her of a group member who ultimately betrayed them and whom she now, improbably, decides to kill. Here the drama seems piled on for its own sake and not through any emotional logic.
Cozarinsky, an Argentinean who moved to Paris early in his career, seems to have an autobiographical interest in the characters’ search into their past. This doesn’t help bring the film alive for the viewer, however, and the stories remain abstract and unfinished. Most of all, they lack the melancholy poetry of his best work, which often sprang out of bold rule-breaking — something very much absent here.
As the shrink who turns to revenge, Paredes does an admirable job connecting nearly nonexistent dots. The quiet Atkine makes a perfect gentleman-forger, and young Putzulu, too, earns sympathy with his eagerness to embrace Paris — as long as it fits his preconceptions.
Technical work, led by Jacques Bouquin’s delicate lensing, Gil Mas’ sets and Carlos Franzetti’s orchestral score, is quite refined.