Alfredo Castro is closely watched by protagonist Dario Grandinetti in Benjamin Naishtat's “Rojo”.
Each day during the Luxembourg City Film Festival, Delano selects its pick of the programme. Today we recommend a chilling drama from Argentina laced with black humour.
Benjamin Naishtat's “Rojo” begins with two quite distinct and totally memorable scenes that seemingly have little to do with each other. The opening sequence, a wide shot of the front of a house that is being very politely looted, gives us historical context. This is the mid 1970s and people in Argentina are being disappeared prior to the coup that will install the infamous military junta in 1976.
The second scene introduces the audience to the film’s protagonist, Claudio, a renowned local lawyer played by Dario Grandinetti. While waiting for his wife to join him, Claudio finds himself insulted and almost attacked by a stranger in a restaurant. Filmed in close quarters Naishtat lends the scene a sense of the absurd, but it is also laced with subterranean menace that continues to pervade the film. Things do not end well, and the actions of that night will come to haunt Claudio.
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Meanwhile, he has to deal with a friend who wants him to help out in an underhanded real estate scheme involving the abandoned house of the opening sequence. Then he is roped in to a subplot involving a troupe of visiting American rodeo stars--a vivid scene of a bull being emasculated is not for the squeamish but serves as a strong if rather unsubtle metaphor for the fate of certain strata of Argentinean society. Claudio’s daughter, who is rehearsing a play about a kidnapping, is involved with an entitled rich kid whose jealously also has disturbing consequences.
With its faded colour, zooms and slow motions, the film brilliantly evokes the period in which it is set. The film is awash with more memorable scenes--a car parked in the desert, a red infused sunset at a beach, a magic show and a game of tennis that ranks with “Strangers On a Train” and “M. Huolt’s Holiday” as one of the best ever committed to the big screen.
Grandinetti is superbly stoic as the morally bewildered lawyer who wants to look after himself and his family but cannot resist temptation. The appearance of a TV detective, played by Alfredo Castro, throws his world into a spin that looks like being his downfall. “Rojo” is a wonderfully accomplished film that tackles a deadly serious subject, provides profound historical context, gives its audience an unsympathetic protagonist whom they eventually will champion, and entertains throughout.