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#Oscars2018 Foreign-Language Film: Today, September 26, submission from Canada.
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rompecabezas (The Puzzle)


An objective camera introduces us to a woman moving in her small kitchen doing all sort of dishes with extreme precision and care, as we leave the kitchen we notice there are many people outside which made me think of a typical Sunday lunch, but soon enough as we continue to see how the woman so expertly moves among them bringing the food, how people converse, eat we notice is a home party. A celebration, for her children? her husband? No, is the 50-years-old birthday party for María del Carmen.

Quite a fantastic very-long and chaotic opening for the debut film by Natalia Smirnoff that takes us into a very ordinary Latin American middle class family where the mother lives a common life as the sole household keeper of a family where she is the only woman. If you know Latin America you know this "happy" family and if you don't know this side of the world what you saw -and will see- could surprise you and probably will set your mind in a direction that's not intended, but try to remember that this is a common, ordinary happy family and the word "happy" is the key.

What follows is how María del Carmen (great María Onetto), the woman that so diligently prepared her own 50-years-old celebration, becomes alive, leaves her ordinary everyday happy life, her anonymity as a family member and flourishes as a human being, which in the end makes her a better person, wife, and mother. It's an amazing, beautifully told, uplifting story that I can't say is original but nevertheless is quite compelling and engaging.

Surely I enjoyed this little movie more than most people will as I love to do puzzles which transport me to the only zone where my mind stops thinking, goes blank and allows me to full-concentrate into only one thing. Somehow I was able to feel exactly that with this movie that as any puzzle, has pieces all over and is you, the viewer, who has to put them together to gasp what really this movie is all about besides the ordinary tale of a woman that found peace, solace and motivation in doing puzzles.

Film is impressive as a debut for a filmmaker that used to work mostly in casting as has very high production values, director got amazing performances by well-known Argentinean actors, and clearly presents us with a very interesting director that crafts her work very carefully, taking her time and not rushing. Definitively she is in my radar and will follow her career. Now is no surprise why film premiered in competition at the 2010 Berlinale and collected honors in the fest circuit.

But, yes, there is one important but. Definitively movie is NOT for all audiences and my best reference is that if you liked Pablo Giorgelli's Las Acacias, then surely you will like this movie that has slow pace, lots of silences, mostly expressionless performances, relies in showing common/ordinary situations, has the "feeling" that nothing happens, and at moments, has some soapy melodramatic characters reactions, which cut the smooth flow and allows you to recapitulate, take a breath, to continue looking for pieces of this puzzle.

When reading about movie discovered many relating this movie to Caroline Bottaro's Joueuse (Queen to Play) which I didn't do spontaneously but recognize that the plot essence is similar, a game that propels change in a woman. Here is a puzzle in the other is chess. Having seen both movies I find them different and with my love for French cinema in mind, I have to say that I find this Argentinean French production to be better as Natalia Smirnoff's storytelling technique is highly superior while Bottaro's was definitively mainstream cinema.

I strongly recommend movie to those that like Latin American great cinema and the particular storytelling style described in previous paragraph. Then, this is a movie that all women of certain age should watch as story definitively will uplift your spirit.

Big Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @MOC

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