Cultural diary, week 2. Another week of amazing cultural discoveries. Lets get right to it!
El clan by Pablo Trapero
This week I saw two excellent Argentinean movies. First came El clan, a wild tale about a family who runs a lucrative kidnapping business. Based on a true story, the film follows patriarch Arquímedes Puccio and his son Alejandro as they carry out dangerous hostage operations in the upper crust neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. There is nary a dull moment in this film which illustrates the trials, tribulations and inevitable car crash of an ending that serves as a climax for an epic tale (no spoilers here: early on in the movie we see glimpses of the family’s dramatic arrests). Although the father and two of his sons do most of the grunt work, every member of the family is at least somewhat aware of what is happening inside their own home and they end up acting as silent collaborators.
Riveting and sad, this family’s story seems to be one of many painful memories for Argentineans who were alive thirty years ago, when these events took place. The Puccio clan was a respectable middle-class family with a son who had a future as a rugby star playing on the national team. Yet even he decided to throw that all away for a few dollars. This crime spree took place during the last few years of the dictatorship, an extremely dark period in Argentina. It is but one within hundreds of terrible stories. At the same time, this film perfectly illustrates the dance between light and darkness that has defined humanity since the beginning of time.
Truman by Cesc Gay
If you’ve seen an Argentinean movie before, chances are Ricardo Darin was in it. His resume reads like a list of all the Argentinean films that have earned praise around the world in the last few years: El secreto de sus ojos, Nueve Reinas, los Relatos Salvajes and now Truman. Teaming up with spanish actor Javier Cámara as his best friend, Darin plays a famous Argentinean actor living in Madrid, who happens to be dying of cancer. Now that he has learned that his cancer has spread, he has decided to forego any new chemo treatments. His friend Tomás flies all the way from Canada to try to convince him to keep going. Of course, Darin’s character Julian has already made up his mind and is mostly try to come to terms with his impending death. Tomás quickly realizes that whatever he says won’t have any effect on his stubborn friend. Together, they decide to make the most of the situation, with all the anger, fear, sadness and joy that this type of situation entails. It’s a touching film, with masterful acting from both Darin and Cámara as well as a nice turn by Dolores Fonzi who plays Julian’s caretaker of a cousin. Having experienced the last few months of my father’s life when he was dying of cancer, I have to say that this movie truly struck a chord with me, even though his experience was quite different. Still, I recognized all the complicated emotions that come with death.
Retour au college by Riad Sattouf
After reading two dark and disturbing comic books last week, I decided to pick something lighter this time. Riad Sattouf’s Retour au college was a perfect choice. A pinch of lighthearted humor, and a dash of cynicism spice up the story of Sattouf’s return to high school, years after graduation. Like a number of people, Sattouf’s time in high school was a tough and awkward phase. Now a (mostly) functional adult, he was curious to go back, this time to observe teenage behaviour through his grownup eyes.
He also decided to pick a school that caters to children hailing from bourgeois classes. Like it or not,through nepotism, these young ones will be future leaders and businessmen. Sattouf finally found a school who let him sit in with a class of fourteen year-olds for three weeks. He discovered that these kids were mostly the same as other teens. Immature, sex-obsessed, depressingly uninterested in learning about anything other than the latest brands or pop stars. The main difference that marked these kids and their behavior was the fact that their parents were never around. Hence, many of them had access to a lot of money but had never experienced true human affection. Nevertheless, Saatouf did end up taking a liking to some of these kids and the portrait he drew of them remains mostly positive. A fun read.
This week, spring finally sprung here in Montreal. What better song to embody the magical energy of these new beginnings than Yann Perreau’s latest single “J’aime les oiseaux”(I like birds). At first listen, I sort of brushed off this song and thought the lyrics were plain silly but it has really grown on me. It’s a great song for an impromptu dance party. In this video the first part of the song has been slowed down and the real fun starts at 1:20.
For people from my generation in Quebec, Jean Leloup has always been around in one or another of his different characters (Leloup, The wolf, Leclerc). He has put out a few great albums but to me, L’amour est sans pitié remains his best. This week, local music channel and webradio ICI musique celebrated that album’s 25th anniversary by streaming it on their website. Even though I knew all of the songs by heart, I still enjoyed listening to it like it was the first time.
Every week, Catherine Pepin hosts Un nomade dans l’oreille (a nomad inside the ear) on ICI musique. It’s a great show to discover sounds from different areas of the world. Last week, I fell in love with this song by Algerian band Gaâda Diwane Béchar. It’s an incredible 7 minute trip, long and profound enough to make you fall into a lovely trance.
She also played this festive song by Colombian band the Latin Brothers. It’s a typical sound from the city of Cali. For a few minutes you feel transported into a street caranaval.
Another song that made me stop in my tracks this week. British band Django Django released this little gem in 2011 but I only just discovered it (thanks KEXP, best radio station in the world). I love this poppy, new wave electro sound.