Waiting for the Messiah

The Jewish community of Buenos Aires provides a lively backdrop for Daniel Burman's second feature, "Waiting for the Messiah." Pic explores the growing pains of a young man torn between traditional family ties and his longing for further horizons, with his story counterpointed by that of a middle-aged bank employee who suddenly finds himself out on the street. Considered one of the best Argentine films of the season, "Messiah" handles ethnicity lightly and affectionately, making Jewishness one of many parallel universes that coexist in a tricky urban environment.

With:
With: Daniel Hendler, Hector Alterio, Enrique Pineyro, Stefania Sandrelli, Chiara Caselli, Melina Petriella.

The Jewish community of Buenos Aires provides a lively backdrop for Daniel Burman’s second feature, “Waiting for the Messiah.” Pic explores the growing pains of a young man torn between traditional family ties and his longing for further horizons, with his story counterpointed by that of a middle-aged bank employee who suddenly finds himself out on the street. Considered one of the best Argentine films of the season, “Messiah” handles ethnicity lightly and affectionately, making Jewishness one of many parallel universes that coexist in a tricky urban environment. Curiosity value alone should earn pic some theatrical crossover, in addition to fest play.

The stories of the two men are told in bits and pieces. As world stock markets plunge, Santamaria (Enrique Pineyro) finds his steady bank job has vanished. His wife takes the opportunity to kick him out, and he becomes a street person, earning a meager living returning stolen wallets.

Ariel (Daniel Hendler), on the other hand, wants out of a too-safe future that includes taking over his elderly father’s (Hector Alterio) restaurant business and marrying the nice Jewish girl next door (Melina Petriella).

Ariel’s infatuation with a bisexual gentile videomaker (Chiara Caselli) is sweet but hopeless. Santamaria gets more concrete results (and probably better sex) romancing an attractively aging public bathroom attendant (Stefania Sandrelli), who is waiting for her husband to get out of jail.

Despite some structural problems bringing the material and its many characters together, Burman keeps things moving with help from a well-chosen cast. It’s easy to identify with Hendler as the restless son, Petriella as a Jewish homebody and Caselli (who directs short films herself) as an unconventional vid filmer. More of a stretch is the couple from the lower depths, but Sandrelli pulls off her unglamorous role by acting like a lady, while Pineyro’s romantic ex-bank teller is a gem.

Camerawork is functional, and the music, often humorous and with an ethnic slant, gets distracting when overused. Both Italian actresses, Caselli and Sandrelli, are dubbed into Spanish.

Waiting for the Messiah

Argentina

Production: A Burman-Dubcovsky Cine production. Produced by Diego Dubcovsky, Daniel Burman. Directed by Daniel Burman. Screenplay, Burman, Emilio Torres.

Crew: Camera (color), Ramiro Civita; editor, Veronica Chen; music, Cesar Lerner, Marcelo Moguilevsky; production designer, Paula Taratuto; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Grignaschi. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Independent Cinema Festival (competing), April 14, 2000. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Daniel Hendler, Hector Alterio, Enrique Pineyro, Stefania Sandrelli, Chiara Caselli, Melina Petriella.

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