Wake Up Love

"Wake Up, Love" is a remarkable gem from Argentina that could find receptive audiences Stateside with savvy marketing from a specialized distributor. This story of a bevy of fortysomethings in Buenos Aires who plan a 25-year reunion to rekindle memories of their teen party days has something for everyone: romance, comedy, a political backdrop and a fantastic soundtrack. Likable, gray-haired Ricardo, aka Elvis (Juan Leyrado), owner of an office furniture store, stays in shape by dancing to "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock" on the roof of his apartment building. He comes up with the idea of gathering his old buddies, all of whom have moved in different directions over the years. His wife of 24 years, Ana (Soledad Silveyra), is a depressed hypochondriac who rarely leaves their flat.

In the old days, Ana had been the girlfriend of Ricardo’s best pal, Ernesto (Dario Grandinetti), a more serious type who abandoned her to pursue his utopian ideals in post-revolutionary Cuba. Ernesto became a serious journalist, and his interest in social issues never flagged, even if circumstances — especially more than two decades of military rule in Argentina — dampened his progressive

fervor. Ricardo might be the life of the film, but Ernesto is definitely its central figure. (Filmmaker Eliseo Subiela went to Cuba in the ’60s).

When Ernesto meets Ana again, the nostalgia for lost youth revives her: She even begins jitterbugging with her husband. Ernesto doesn’t return the sexual interest, because he has just fallen in love with a Cuban cellist, Vera (Marilyn Solaya), studying in B.A. Strangely enough, Sebastian (Joaquin Bonet), Ricardo and Ana’s twentyish son, is an introspective aspiring poet, in temperament and

physique more like Ernesto than his own father.

Ricardo also contacts two other members of their teen gang, one a successful businessman, the other a down-and-out worker for the national railway. To good,

humorous effect, Subiela keeps flashing back to their wild youthful antics, like buying condoms for the first time, trying to get it on with girls in the kitchen, making multiple sex jokes, and driving around in an old hearse. Most of

the flashbacks contain vivid party scenes in which the awkwardness of the raging hormone years is tempered by such classics as “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.”

The 53-year-old Subiela, best known for the 1985 “Man Facing Southeast,” had a triple bypass in February 1995, and “Wake Up, Love” is clearly a therapeutic work in which he reconciles his serious, socially conscious side (Ernesto) with the joie de vivre one feels around simple pleasures (Ricardo). “Probably Ricardo was the wisest of us all,” Ernesto says. “Life was a party.” As Ricardo himself

says, “Those who think a lot are the most unhappy people.” This is a strong confession, given Subiela’s recurring references to the period of dictatorship

(1962-84) during which the flashbacks occur.

The beauty of the political referents here is that they are never didactic: teen Ana’s old grandmother gives a hilarious running commentary on a succession of dictators on TV. Especially moving is the realization that Sebastian will carry on the progressive intellectual tradition in Argentina that the rightists tried to eradicate.

Only weak point in the film’s weaving of politics into a lighthearted storyline is the excessive symbolic weight put on the Cuban Vera, who tells Ernesto, “Paradise slipped out of our hands.” Also out of synch with the tone of

the film is the middle-age trap that Ernesto falls into of obsessing over a babe half his age. Vera is essentially a non-character, only a function of developing Ernesto.

This well-crafted movie cost only $ 1.5 million, and, unusual for a good Argentinean film, had no foreign co-producer. The cinematography, editing and production design are exceptional. Its most haunting moments are the muffled

fades, which sound like chords put through a wind tunnel, on the old ’50s classics (they came more than a decade late to Argentina) when the film returns from past to present. Mario Benedetti’s profound poetry is occasionally read on the soundtrack, a poignant counterpoint to the boyish pranks of teens and middleagers who have survived more than two decades of political hell.

Wake Up Love


  • Production: A Lider film release (in Argentina) of an Artear Argentina/CQ3 S.A. production, with participation of the Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales. Produced by Raul Campos. Executive producers, Jorge Rocca, Damian Kirzner. Directed, written by Eliseo Subiela
  • Crew: Camera (color), Daniel Rodriguez Maseda; editor, Marcela Saenz; music, Martin Bianchedi; production design, Cristina Nigro; costume design, Evelyn Bendjeskov; sound, Carlos Abbate; associate producers, Kinucha Mitre, Raul J. Naya Producciones; assistant director, Aldo Romero; casting, Noemi Granata; rock instructors, Facundo & Kelly. Reviewed at Miami Film Festival, Feb. 6, 1997. (Also at Mar del Plata Film Festival.) Running time: 98 min.
  • With: Ernesto ..... Dario Grandinetti Ana ..... Soledad Silveyra Ricardo (Elvis) ..... Juan Leyrado Vera ..... Marilyn Solaya Sebastian ..... Joaquin Bonet Ernesto (as Teen) ..... Diego Alcala Ana (as Teen) ..... Laura Azcurra Ricardo (as Teen) ..... Luciano Leyrado With: Gustavo Garzon, Emilia Mazer, Valentina Bassi, Manuel Callau, Marga Rusel, Sebastian Pajoni, Elvira Onetto, Miguel Paludi, Eduardo Narvay.
  • Music By: