MAR DEL PLATA: Continuing its love affair with Argentine cinema, Disney’s Buena Vista Intl. has acquired Latin American rights to Alejandro Agresti’s drama “Surving the Seventies,” which would premiered Monday at the Mar del Plata Festival, representing one of its highest-profile new titles.
Argentina’s latest B.O. juggernauts “Wild Tales” Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan” were distributed by Warner Bros. and Fox respectively.
But Disney was the first studio to drive into Argentine cinema with real vigor aiding its top performers to begin to punch significant numbers, handling the No. 1 Argentine hit on five of six years from 2008’s “A Boyfriend for My Bride” through to 2013’s “Corazon de leon” ($10.6 million).
Produced by Sebastian Aloi’s Aeroplano, which is based out of Los Angeles and Buenos Aires, in association with Metropolis Films, and funded by the companies and equity investors, Aloi said, “Surviving the Seventies” marks the return to Argentina of Agresti, one of its most international talents: Following 2002’s “Valentin,” Agresti was hired as a screenwriter by Harvey Weinstein. He directed Warner Bros.’ 2008 “The Lake House,” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, then teamed with John Cusack to co-write the still-to-be-released Argentina-set, English-language “No somos animales,” with Cusack.
“I wanted to make a very Argentine film,” Agresti told the Argentine press at Mar del Plata on Monday.
That cuts several ways. “Popular Mechanics” boasts a name cast headed by Alejandro Awada, rapidly emerging as one of the vintage actors of Argentina after turns in “Nine Queens,” “The Aura” and TV series “Historia de un clan,” playing real-life serial abductor-murderer Arquimedes Puccio.
Awada plays Mario Zavadikner, a world-wearied publishing house owner – he’s studying a purchase by a Chinese buyer – assailed in his office one rainy night by a young woman (Marina Glezer) who pulls a gun and threatens to blow her brains out if he doesn’t read her novel.
Mondo Verbo has already passed on the manuscript but her name – Sylvia – and her pugnaciousness remind him of his wife (Romina Richi), also a writer.
And here, “Surviving the Seventiess” joins the great Argentine tradition of upscale fantasy and an unreliable narrator, stretching back to Jorge Luis Borges and beyond, as Zavadikner recalls his stormy relation with his wife – who accuses him and Argentina’s bourgeois intellectuals of being more concerned with Lacanian psychotherapy and structuralism than a military junta’s abductions and murders.
“People like Borges enter your mind from when you’re born,” Agresti commented Monday.
Drinking ever more whisky Silvia in the past and present meld – Agresti makes them wear the same dress – in a portrait of a man sunk in regret, nostalgia, guilt and booze who has buried his pain at loss – his wife, a son who died at 17 – in the trappings of professional success. “Every one has a story,” the poster for “Surviving the Seventies” reads. It winds up as the portrait of a man who suddenly remembers his forgotten life plot.
Meanwhile as a foil to Zavadikner, Garcia (Chilean Patricio Contreras, “The Official Story”), the night security guard, is also an avid reader of anything he can get his hands on. The tragic reason is revealed towards the end of the film, suggesting the role of literature as solace.
“This is a film about words, their value. Books still awake in me an innocent, adolescent passion,” Agresti said.
Acclaimed at Mar del Plata by a large rump of Agresti fans, “Surving the Seventies” will bow in Argentina on March 12, Aloi said.
Unspooling in one setting, “Seventies” has obvious stage adaptation potential: Glezer revealed than plans for a legit version are indeed in motion.