Review: ‘La senal’

"Uses North American methods" is the message on the door of the Buenos Aires private detectives' office in "La senal," and the same motto could apply to the film itself.

“Uses North American methods” is the message on the door of the Buenos Aires private detectives’ office in “La senal,” and the same motto could apply to the film itself. An enjoyable but disappointingly play-safe noir, thesp Ricardo Darin’s directorial debut (co-helmed with Martin Hodara) plays more like an homage to the form than a full-fledged example. Most of pic’s pleasures, particularly the exquisite lensing and the superb double act between Darin and comedian Diego Peretti, remain separate from a plotline that would have benefited from the odd knowing wink. Oct. 5 Spanish release looks limited to selected Hispanic territories.

Set in 1952, item makes regular reference to the physical decline and death of Eva Peron and evokes the sense of national decline accompanying her demise. Gumshoes Pibe Corvalan (Darin) and Arthur Santana (Peretti) run a low-budget detective agency. Corvalan’s life, in which his music teacher g.f. Perla (Andrea Pietra) and his Alsatian loom large, is dull.

Femme fatale Gloria (Julieta Diaz) asks Corvalan to trail a man called Perturato (Luis Solanas), who is found dead several days later. Gloria’s explanation is that her mafioso husband ordered the execution of an entire clan — including Perturato — that is now seeking revenge. In time-honored noir style, Gloria claims she has no one else to turn to but Corvalan. Corvalan falls for it — and for Gloria.

Darin is appropriately gruff and muted as the jaded detective, contrasting with motormouthed Peretti’s livelier perf. Diaz, however, lacks the weight to make her entirely convincing.

Pic really wins out on its exquisite visuals, re-envisioning Buenos Aires as a gloomy, shadowy hive of corruption, with color often drained almost to black-and-white, particularly in night scenes. Period detail is fine, the soundtrack gently brooding.

Co-scripter Eduardo Mignogna died during pre-production. His memory is better served by his last completed pic, “The Wind.”

La senal

Spain - Argentina

Production

A Wanda Vision release (in Spain) of a Wanda Vision, Fenix, Manantiales Producciones (Spain)/Pampa Films, Patagonik, Retratos, Palermo Films (Argentina) production, with participation of TVE. (International sales: Wanda Vision, Madrid.) Executive producers, Jose Maria Morales, Francisco Lazaro, Pablo Bossi, Claudio Etcheberry, Cecilia Bossi. Directed by Ricardo Darin, Martin Hodara. Screenplay, Eduardo Mignogna, Darin.

Crew

Camera (color), Marcelo Camorino; editor, Alejandro Penovi Carrillo; music, Juan Ponce de Leon, Andres Goldstein, Daniel Tarrab; art director, Margarita Jusid; sound (Dolby Digital), Jose Luis Fernandez Lahera. Reviewed at Fotofilm, Madrid, Sept. 10, 2007. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Ricardo Darin, Diego Peretti, Julieta Diaz, Andrea Pietra, Luis Solanas.
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