Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2007 3:49 pm 
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Running from emotion in Patagonia

As Born and Bred (Nacido y Criado) begins, Trapero quickly establishes the happy, well-off family, the designer dad Santiago (Guillermo Pfening); mom, Milli (Martina Gusman); and little Josefina (Victoria Vescio), living in a house all done in white with a maid to wait on them. They even drink milk for breakfast. They take a day trip out in the country to visit and then BAM! On the way back, squabbling with the girl, who climbs onto the front seat, Santiago looks away from the road and there's a terrible accident. We don't know at first what's happened, hear only the voice of the dad. Fast forward to winter in Patagonia with a male companion. The designer Santiago, tousled and bearded now, is living a rough life out in the country, it appears, hunting with Robert (Federico Esquerro) and Cacique (Tomás Lipan). Night scenes show he is disturbed, suffers perhaps a kind of post traumatic stress syndrome. Normal for the most part, at other times he seems deranged, acting out little moments of hyper-vigelance right in the middle of a drive or a hunt and vomiting in the night. His constant associates now obviously don't know him well, and he tells them nothing.

Trapero seems much more at ease in developing this scene than the earlier too-perfect family life. Santiago is escaping, unsuccessfully. The men work occasionally for the local airport, though traffic is dwindling. They go to Riojano's bar, and when they've caught some game they sell it to the barman for the meat or the skins, usually at a loss to them. The barmaid Betty provides sex à trois -- one such session an occasion for more moody acting out by Santiago.

It's intentionally left up in the air what's happened with Milli and Josefina, who're vaguely and occasionally referred to. What became of Santiago's successful career? Someone keeps trying to call Roberto, and later someone calls Santiago on his phone. What's going on? Why has Santiago chosen this way out? A call he makes to Victoria (Nilda Baggi) shows he hasn't told his relatives where he is. This seems to be male avoid-responsibilities country, since Roberto has a girlfriend back home who's pregnant and he won't talk to her; he calls her his "ex." Even Cacique, the Indian, neglects his family and goes out carousing knowing his wife is sick. It's all drink, hunting, a little work, and machismo with these big boys. There is a shade too much determinism in the similarity of the three men's behavior.

This goes on too long, and the tension created by the accident is lost. Finally a naked shot of Santiago shows his body is covered with welts, apparently incompletely treated burn scars. When Cacique's wife dies, Santiago's grief is released and he confesses to Robert about the accident. But as we learn next, he really doesn't know altogether what has happened, because he fled before finding out.

Seemingly like a prolonged tease, Born and Bred does provide an intense experience. It will appeal to you if you like to have emotions developed by their non-expression. Trapero is a highly esteemed director and this film may increase its interest if one sees it in relation to his previous work, but I have seen only this one. His 1999 debut Crane World and his 2004 Rolling Family were earlier SFIFF selections. He has relied more often on non-actors in the past, but this is a change, because Guillermo Pfening is a well-known TV actor. It's also said (e.g., in the Variety review of Born and Bred by Robert Koehler) that each of Trapero's films has been a complete change from the previous one, and so this may be reflected in the stark contrast between the pristine domestic prelude and the rough Patagonian sequences the follow in Nacido y Criado. However the opening sequence is unconvincing and the Patagonia scenes are atmospheric but too long, so this film can hardly be called a success.

Shown as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival 2007.

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