MAR DEL PLATA – Is Latin American cinema shifting mainstream? Art pics remain of course. Indeed, three standouts at Mar del Plata’s voluminous 22-title Work in Progress, which unspooled Thursday and Friday at the seaside resort – Daniel Rosenfeld’s “To the Center of the Earth,” Ana Pitarbarg’s “Alptraum” and Pablo Aguero’s “Madres de los Dioses,” which treated audiences Geraldine Chaplin’s latest challenging role, as God – would all fit into that category.
But the MDP WIP also featured at least three genre movies and a bevy of titles that are – hopefully upscale – niche mainstream, rather than the artistic plays so common before.
One case in point: Fernando Cricenti’s Buenos Aires-set “Veredas,” which took WIP’s eventual First Mention Prize, a kind of runners-up plaudit. At Mar del Plata, the director said that it drinks at the wells of both classic Hollywood screwball comedy – Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Cricenti said at Mar del Plata – and France’s Nouvelle Vague, in its serial use of outdoor urban locations, dotted around Buenos Aires’ upscale Palermo district.
“The characters move about a Buenos Aires which is contemporary, recognizable but slightly strange,” Cricenti said. He added: “This strangeness is based, more than anything else, on the list and organization of the places of the places which the characters go to and their obsessions and actions: It’s out of synch with normal reality, functions in a different way. I like early ‘60s movies that took the camera out into the street and started shooting.”
Produced by Omar Jadur, at No Problem Cine, and Sebastian Perillo – who separately or together also have at Mar del Plata the International Competition entry “Somebody’s Life” and “El hijo buscado,” an Argentine Competition player – “Veredas” stars actor-playwright Ezequial Tronconi (“La Tigra, Chaco”), who co-wrote the screenplay, as Federico, 30, a writer and seemingly romantic wet-blanket, who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend from hell, and is delighted when a gamine girl, Lucia, played by Paula Reca, whose credits include the Juan Jose Campanella-produced “Belgrano,” jumps into his taxi to follow her b.f, Andrés, whom she was about to pinkslip until she sees him with another woman.
A romantic off-kilter chase movie, chronicling the gradual re-masculation of Federico, thanks to Lucia, “Veredas” boasts a strong ensemble of secondary players – Anita Pauls (“The German Doctor”), Paloma Contreras (“The Fish Child”) – chance meetings, and quirkier settings – the Buenos Aires Zoo, and Carlos Thays’ Rose Garden Walk, for instance. Cinematography is by Fernando Lockett, the regular d.p. of Matias Pineiro (“The Princess of France”), whose credits also include Santiago Palavecino’s Venice player “Some Girls” and “Somebody’s Life.”
Starring Guillermo Francella, “Lionheart” grossed $10.6 million in Argentina for Disney last year. Local romcoms are none too common in the Argentine cinema, Cricenti said.
“I wanted to make an audience-friendly film,” he added.
Beyond films starring Ricardo Darin and Francella, crime thrillers are punching better box office now in Argentina. It remains to be seen if romantic comedies stock can rise too.