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A man put on hold indefinitely by his g.f. whiles away his time in Buenos Aires in “A Mysterious World.” Even more slow-moving and drawn out than writer-director Rodrigo Moreno’s previous feature, “El custodio,” this Argentine indie offers a few instances of humor and some vague parallels between the aimless slacker protag and his trouble-prone Romanian car, but these are hardly enough to sustain interest for almost two hours. Pic, which mysteriously made its way into the Berlinale competish, will appeal to only a tiny hardcore-arthouse audience.

Pic opens with an eight-minute fixed shot of Boris (Esteban Bigliardi, appropriately unremarkable) and Ana (Cecilia Rainero) in bed, apparently post-coitus. Boris then somewhat selfishly starts to read the paper, before Ana asks for some time apart. The bespectacled Boris initially fails to comprehend her question, but is shown moving into a ramshackle hotel in the next scene without putting up much of a fight.

The rest of the film follows Boris around for an unspecified length of time; at one point, his five o’clock shadow becomes a fully grown beard that he subsequently shaves off. He has a few chilly meetings with Ana in an empty cafe and some random encounters with other people, including an old friend (Leandro Uria) he meets in a bookstore and a vivacious curly-haired woman (Lucrecia Oviedo) at a party where a word game offers one of the pic’s few instances of humor. A lot of the time, however, this cipher of a protag with no ostensible job or source of income is just present in the frame, not doing much in particular.

A major plot point in this sea of emptiness is Boris’ decision to buy a baby-blue, communist-era Romanian car whose parts don’t all function as they should. Clearly, the vehicle’s meant as a kind of metaphor for Boris himself, though what exactly that means isn’t always clear. And despite having a car, the enigmatic Boris sometimes still prefers to takes the bus.

D.p. Gustavo Biazzi (“Castro”) makes some peculiar choices. The film is shot in something close to Academy ratio, which, rather than suggesting the protag is boxed in despite his aimless wanderings through the city, gives the film a TV feel that’s painfully at odds with its uber-arthouse approach to narrative. And lensing is generally as nondescript as the protag, making a sequence of attention-grabbing tracking shots midway through stick out like a sore thumb.

Buenos Aires locations, as well as a quick escape to Montevideo by ferry, won’t do anything to augment local tourism, instead offering an anonymous big-city atmosphere. Diegetic music, when used, is jazzy.

A Mysterious World

Argentina

  • Production: A Rizoma production, in association with Rohfilm, with participation of Incaa, Visions Sud Est, ZDF, Arte, Control Z Films. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Natacha Cervi, Hernan Musaluppi. Co-producers, Benny Drechsel, Karsten Stoeter, Anne Tetzlaff. Directed, written by Rodrigo Moreno.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Gustavo Biazzi; editor, Martin Mainoli; production designer, Gonzalo Delgado; costume designer, Delgado; sound (Dolby Digital), Catriel Vildosola; line producer, Fernando Brom; associate producers, Fernando Epstein, Pascual Condito; assistant director, Nicolas Grosso. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 15, 2011. Running time: 113 MIN.
  • With: With: Esteban Bigliardi, Cecilia Rainero, Rosario Blefari, German da Silva, Leandro Uria, Hernan Oviedo, Lucrecia Oviedo.