As elegant in its storytelling as in its story, Carlos Sorin’s “The Window” is a tale of age and mortality that firmly resists the “cute” tag reflexively assigned to movies with old people, and mines a rich, deep vein of melancholy and humor. Marking a return to Patagonia for the Argentine helmer (2004’s “Bombon: el perro”), “The Window” will have as good a chance at cracking the hard-shell foreign-language market as any other film this year.
If that doesn’t seem to ring with hope and optimism, it’s because “The Window” would have as tough time in American theaters in English as it will in Spanish, given that so much of its charm and art are between the lines. It’s a film that needs to be actively watched, not passively experienced.
With an almost palpable sense of place — and more importantly, a particular household — Sorin tells a story of remembrance and regret, two things he sees as inseparable. Eightysomething Argentine aristocrat Antonio (Antonio Larreta) is awaiting the return of his long-absent son, Pablo (Jorge Diez), a world-class pianist.
Bedridden, waited on hand-and-foot by his two faithful housekeepers (Maria del Carmen Jimenez, Emilse Roldan), Antonio can do nothing himself about the preparations for his son. But he dictates from beneath the sheets: The decrepit piano must be tuned; the 40-year-old bottle of champagne must be retrieved. (One of the film’s most revealing, and characteristic, gestures is Antonio’s pulling the liquor cabinet key from his pajama pocket.) We get a sense of why Pablo went away.
Almost nothing is overt in “The Window.” The piano tuner (played by the wonderfully satyr-like Roberto Rovira) provides a soundtrack of fractured notes as the women bustle and the lord of the manor reflects. Antonio eventually “escapes” — he decides to take a walk around the hacienda — and the crisis that ensues brings youth and energy into the movie in a way that makes the enfeeblement of Antonio and his mansion all the more poignant.
Sorin has constructed a reflective poem, one that’s never solemn, always insightful and sometimes hilarious. When Pablo finally arrives, the umbilical attachment of his wife, Claudia (Carla Peterson), to her cell phone is the one suggestion that perhaps Antonio lives in a better world than us. It’s an ephemeral moment, but it lingers.
Production values are just fine.