Argentina’s No. 1 femme director, Maria Luisa Bemberg, has come up with a quirky, bizarre comedy-drama in “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” based on the sort of left-field premise that has fascinated filmmakers like Luis Bunuel and Marco Ferreri in the past. Production is handsome, off-the-wall, yet at times strangely muted, and should drum up interest on the international arthouse circuit.
This tall tale is set in a small Argentine town in the 1940s. Luisina Brando cuts an imposing figure as Leonor, a respected, well-off widow who is determined that her daughter, Charlotte, a dwarf, live as normal a life as possible while keeping up a veneer of respectability in the close-knit community.
Most eligible local bachelor is the slightly mysterious Ludovico (Marcello Mastroianni), who has his choice of all the single women in the district. Indeed , Leonor rather fancies he might marry her one day, as he’s a regular visitor to her home and is forever telling stories to the delighted Charlotte and giving the adolescent presents.
So Leonor is amazed to discover that it’s not her the dapper Ludovico is courting, but Charlotte. Eventually, he marries her, and they appear to be blissfully happy until, one sad day, a circus comes to town.
Bemberg keeps the audience guessing as to how these unusual relationships will be resolved, and imbues the film with a gentle humor. It would be interesting to speculate what fun a more outrageous director — Bunuel, say, or Alejandro Jodorowsky — might have had with the obsessive passion inherent in this subject, but Bemberg is content to handle the theme in a perfectly matter-of-fact style, which makes the strange narrative appear even stranger. Performances are top-notch, with Mastroianni superb as the tormented, ardent lover and Brando imposing as the fiercely proud matriarch. Alejandra Podesta has been perfectly cast as the diminutive Charlotte.
Production values are excellent, and there’s a typically catchy score from Italo composer Nicola Piovani.