Monday, July 25, 2011

Copa America 2011: Argentina

Entry #9 of the Copa America 2011 Book & Film Festival.

Book: Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch (Rayuela) comes with a table of instructions which offer two reading methods:

In its own way, this book consists of many books, but two books above all.

The first can be read in a normal fashion and it ends with Chapter 56, at the close which there are three garish little stars which stand for the words The End. Consequently, the reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience.

The second should be read by beginning with Chapter 73 and then following the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter. In case of confusion or forgetfulness, one need only consult the following list:...

The hopscotch chapter sequence starts with 73 and ends with Chapter 131.

I decided to follow a third path and instead read all the 155 chapters in sequence. Such a third path is entirely possible because after reading the first few chapters, one can judge the cut-up nature of the book and get an idea about how the chapters would slot in the overall structure. The first portion of the book takes place in Paris and follows the carefree life of Horacio Oliveira as he wanders the city and has stimulating conversations about life, philosophy, art, jazz and literature while being under the spell of La Maga, the ultimate temptress. This section of the book emits the feeling of an era when a person could spend an entire day doing nothing but wandering around Paris and feel truly alive. Horacio certainly emits that zest for life in Paris but his life loses a little fluidity and gets a bit more rigid structure when he moves back to Buenos Aries. Horacio’s magnificent conversations don’t disappear in the Argentine capital but the wear and tear from a variety of jobs and the memories of La Maga cause Horacio’s life to get fragmented slowly, mimicking the book’s structure.

Overall, certainly a book that deserves to be read more than once and one that allows multiple reading manners because the flow of the chapters allows a person to construct their own table of instructions.

Film: Crane World (1999, Pablo Trapero)

Pablo Trapero’s wonderful debut film follows the life and travels of Rulo (Luis Margani) as he attempts to earn a living by taking up whatever jobs he can find, no matter the location. Rulo tries his luck as a crane operator but he is let go from his job after his boss has concerns about Rulo’s health. Rulo drifts to the Argentine countryside to find a job in the construction industry but things don’t work out there because of other workers dispute with the owners over a missing lunch. Rulo’s charming and easy going personality certainly helps him overcome any hardships, be it with his job or with his son. Over the course of the film, it is uncovered that Rulo was once in a band and this revelation helps open some new doors for him.

Crane World is certainly a key film of the new wave of Argentine films ushered over the last decade. Trapero’s use of non-professional actors and grainy black and white footage adds a level of realism to the story.

Bonus Film: Lion's Den (2008, Pablo Trapero)

Trapero once again used non-actors for Lion’s Den and the end result is yet another engaging film that does not look like scripted cinema at all. The real force of the film is Martina Gusman who turns in an incredible performance as Julia, a possible innocent woman trapped in prison. After waking up dazed and covered in blood, Julia showers and heads off to work. Upon returning home she finds her boyfriend Nahuel’s dead body and a wounded Ramiro, who was also living with them. Julia is arrested and put in prison where she learns of her pregnancy. That discovery lands her in a ward for pregnant and young mothers. The special ward is not any easier in coping with prison life and consists of a shared space where young infants can play. However, the shared space has limited hours and the rest of the time is still spent behind closed bars. The close proximity to other mothers helps Julia raise her newborn while trying to survive in prison. As per the film, a child born in prison has to given away to a relative or a destination chosen by the court at the age of 4. Julia fights to keep her son and she is given hope when Ramiro is looking to reveal the truth. But after Ramiro backs out, the truth never arrives and Julia decides to take matters into her own hands so as to secure a better life for her son.

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