Pablo Trapero’s ‘The Clan’ Slays Tom Cruise in Argentina

Venice-Toronto competition player punches best opening ever for Argentine movie

Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, made by the producers of “Wild Tales” and bowing Aug. 13, Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan” sold 504,000 tickets over in its first four days in Argentina, setting a new record for the best opening ever of an Argentine movie.

Total first week gross is around 825,000 admissions, said Film Factory’s Vicente Canales, movie’s sales agent.

Running up this record, “The Clan,” a dark abduction thriller, slaughtered “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation” (400,000 in 12 days) and came out of the gates even bigger than Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales,” 10% up on its “Wild Tales’’” first-frame 450,000 admissions.

Produced – like “The Clan” – by Buenos Aires’ K & S Film, the Almodovars’ Madrid-based El Deseo and Argentine broadcaster Telefe, as part of Telefonica Studios’ drive into movie investment, “Wild Tales” went on to sell 3.45 million tix in Argentina last year, becoming the highest-grossing Argentine film in history. “The Clan” is also co-produced by Fox International Productions.

A movie ticket sold at about $5.15 in Argentina over 2014.

Exploring social issues with a sense of both character and genre, led by film noir (think 2010’s “Carancho,” an expose of insurance fraud in Argentina), Trapero’s movies have often had B.O. traction in Argentina: Social issue priest drama “Carancho,” starring Ricardo Darin, grossed $2.5 million. But “The Clan” is already in a different B.O. league altogether.

Factor’s driving “The Clan’s” bar-raising trawl include Trapero’s caché, Argentina’s new-won enthusiasm for select big-play national movies, the willingness of a new generation of filmmakers to mesh weighty issues and entertainment, and the presence of lead actor Guillermo Francella, with Ricardo Darin Argentina’s biggest local marquee draw. In Francella’s best outing to date, 2013’s romcom “Corazón de leon” grossed $10.6 million in Argentina, sparking remakes in Colombia and now France, starring “The Artist” Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin.

For “The Clan,” which is based on true-events, Francella plays Arquimedes Puccio, whose family, the so-called Clan Puccio, abducted people from its own upscale Buenos Aires neighborhood, demanding hefty ransoms. Upon their receipt, they then killed their victims. Accomplices in varying degrees in the kidnappings, all the family members benefitted from the ransom payments. The action unspools around four kidnappings, from 1982 to 1985.

“The case that inspired ‘The Clan’ is one of the most emblematic crimes in Argentina’s history,” said Javier Braier, head of development at K & S Films.

He continued: “Like Ricardo Darín, almost every film Guillermo Francella stars in is one of the film events of the year. And the fact that this is a new film by Pablo Trapero is a large attraction for the media, critics, audiences and the film community. Next to Daniel Szifron and Juan José Campanella, he forms part of the elite of Argentine directors both is mass audience appeal and on an artistic level.”

The question is now whether “The Clan” can play international where Twentieth Century Fox has rights to Latin America and sales agent Film Factory announced a weighty big arthouse distrib pre-sale to France’s Diaphana at Berlin.

“The Clan” has snagged one of the best big fest runs possible for a foreign title, competing at Venice, where it international premieres on its first Sunday on Sept. 6, then segueing to Toronto’s new Platform competition. After that it plays San Sebastian’s Pearls section.

Certainly, Argentine press reviews have been favorable. “Very Good,” sentenced Pablo Scholz at “Clarin,” one of Argentina’s most influential dailies. “Trapero is a storyteller like few others on the Argentine scene, who grew with the initial New Argentine Cinema to evolve into a director who makes the best cinema, which combines art and commercial reach.”

Like “Wild Tales,” “The Clan,” it could be argued, is also not just about Argentina.

It channels an indignation at the sense of lack of accountability of the rich. “When the Pucci were finally arrested, many people said they must be innocent, because their social class simply didn’t commit this type of crime,” Trapero told Variety ladt December on the set of the film.

“The Clan’s” psychological heart is its father-son relationship, where Arquimedes Puccio persuades son Alejandro to abet his crimes. Here the film enters its heart of horror: How people whose ethical sense seems to have short-fused can carry such force of conviction when persuading others to commit the most hideous crimes possible in the claimed interest of a greater good – here the well-being of the Puccio family itself.

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