Three colorful characters wander amidst the dusty roads of Patagonia in Carlos Sorin's Historias Minimas a.k.a Intimate Stories (2002). An old man must travel to a remote village to reclaim a dog he feels was the only living creature capable of understanding him; a traveling salesman must deliver a chocolate torta to a beautiful widow he hopes to impress; and a lonely housewife must travel to a remote village to claim her winning lottery ticket.
Beautifully photographed Carlos Sorin's award-winning Argentinean drama Historias Minimas very much feels like a documentary picture sprinkled with an unexpected layer of humor. Offering endless shots from the beautiful fields of Patagonia the film tends to follow a pacing of its own. At times Sorin's characters seem lonely; at times they appear joyful, and the rhythm of the story for the most part follows the mood of its protagonists.
Perhaps the greatest strength of this film however is its ability to (as the title suggests) create a sense of intimacy while the audience follows the steps of the three protagonists. Frame after frame Carlos Sorin peels off a small layer from the mysteries surrounding Don Justo (Antonio Benedicti), Maria Flores (Javiera Bravo) and Roberto (Javier Lombardo)-what seems rather odd during the opening scenes of the film slowly but surely becomes customary. As a result seeing an old man hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere determined to meet an old puppy-friend suddenly does not seem like such a ludicrous idea.
Even with all of its eccentricity however Historias Minimas remains an incredibly lonely film. The prolonged vistas of the Patagonian landscape where as far as the eye can see there is nothing but empty skies and desolate roads transform this Argentinean production into something rather special-from the seemingly incoherent stories of Don Justo, Maria Flores, and Roberto to the quiet scenes of solitude Carlos Sorin reveals through his camera Historias Minimas sends its viewers on a sensual journey with plenty of unknowns.
The exotic yet utterly humane allure of Historias Minimas has been winning audiences throughout Latin America and especially in its native Argentina with an impressive pace. A quick look at the formidable resume of Carlos Sorin's film reveals a never-ending list of festival awards and nominations indicating that the three protagonists must have struck a note in the hearts of those who followed their quests.
In 2003 Historias Minimas the film won eight Silver Condor awards, including Best Film, Best Directors (Carlos Sorin), and Best New Actor (Antonio Benedicti) granted by the Argentinean Film Critics Association. During the same year the film also won the Special Jury Prize at the Cartagena Film Festival (Colombia). The film also won the prestigious Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film (Spain) as well as the FIPRESCI Prize-Special Mention and the SIGNIS Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival (2002).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the film appears to have been delivered from a secondary PAL-source, most likely the Argentinean English-subbed DVD. There is a fairly good amount of "ghosting" and "combing" on this release although not as distracting as I expected them to be. Contrast and colors appear to be handled rather well and for the most part the image quality looks rather strong. There is however some noticeable dirt here as well as occasional dots/specs here and there that you will notice. To sum it all up the film is most certainly watchable on a standard tube though in my opinion those with more sensitive home set ups will probably want to avoid this R1 release due to its incorrect sourcing.
How Does the DVD Sound?
The film is presented with its original Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital track and optional white rather large English subtitles. The audio presentation is most certainly fine as dialog is easy to follow and the little music here appears quite well mixed. This being said I did not detect any distracting hissing or pop-ups that might prevent you from enjoying the stories of the three protagonists.
Not much in terms of extras has been provided here! What you will find is a standard "Making Of" which covers some of the difficulties the Argentinean crew had to endure during the shooting of this film (strong winds in particular) as well as some generic comments from the director and actors. There is also the original theatrical trailer as well as two of the "local" Argentinean trailers for the film.
I quite enjoyed this film and given my fascination with Patagonia (for a breathtaking view of the Patagonian coastline I strongly recommend Luis Puenzo's The Whore and the Whale) I found plenty here that impressed me. The DVD is a typical New Yorker PAL-port, perhaps a bit stronger than usual, confirming that the R1 distrib has not changed its mentality of going the cheaper route whenever possible.