Review: ‘Fantasma’

The reigning master of Argentine minimalism, Lisandro Alonso ("Libertad") takes an unsettling swerve with "Fantasma," an enervating mood piece more like a self-reflective experiment than a finished film. In extreme long takes of graceful, Zen-like slowness, the camera follows Argentino Vargas, protag of Alonso's much-prized "Los muertos," around a labyrinthine theater in downtown Buenos Aires where said film is being screened.

The reigning master of Argentine minimalism, Lisandro Alonso (“Libertad”) takes an unsettling swerve with “Fantasma,” an enervating mood piece more like a self-reflective experiment than a finished film. In extreme long takes of graceful, Zen-like slowness, the camera follows Argentino Vargas, protag of Alonso’s much-prized “Los muertos,” around a labyrinthine theater in downtown Buenos Aires where said film is being screened. Just over an hour, this unscripted exercise brings to mind Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang’s reverie about empty film theaters, “Goodbye, Dragon Inn.” Pic’s willful lack of content is unlikely to travel outside fests presenting crit pics for the cognoscenti.

Even those who let their imaginations be captured by the young director’s first two films are likely to be split over this entry. There are traces of the mysterious lyricism that made the early films click, but also a sense of forced atmosphere. While Vargas floats around the empty San Martin theater complex like the titular ghost stalked by Lucio Bonelli’s fluid camera, Misael Saavedra, the lead of “Libertad,” messes around elsewhere in the building. Occasional ear-splitting soundtrack by Flor Maleva burns off the general silence.

Fantasma

Argentina-France-Netherlands

Production

A 4L (Argentina)/Slot Machine (France)/Fortuna Films (Netherlands) co-production. Produced by Lisandro Alonso, Marianne Slot, Ilse Hughan. Directed, written by Lisandro Alonso.

Crew

Camera (color), Lucio Bonelli; editor, Alonso, Delphine Castagnino; music, Flor Maleva. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 24, 2006. Running time: 66 MIN.

With

Argentino Vargas, Misael Saavedra, Carlos Landini, Jorge Franseschelli, Rosa Martinez.

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