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I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me

I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me
Facets Video
2003 / Color / 1:37 letterbox 1:85 / 64 min. / Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos / Street Date May 24, 2005 / 24.95
Starring Ada Falcón
Cinematography Segundo Cerrato, Marcelo Lavintman, Federico Ransenberg
Film Editor Alejandra Almirón, Martín Cespedes
Produced by Marcelo Cespedes, Carmen Guarini
Written and Directed by Lorena Muñoz, Sergio Wolf

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This interesting little documentary appears at first to be an affectionate tribute to some icons of Argentinian tango music, but widens into a search for a famous singer who simply disappeared in 1942. Just when we expect to be shown a grave marker in some rural province, I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me presents us with an amazing surprise. For a music lover, the film is like a treasure hunt with an unexpected ending.

The film offers interesting views of modern-day Buenos Aires while documenting a filmmaker's attempts to gather information about the almost legendary tango divas of the 1930s: Rosita Quiroga, Mercedes Simone, Libertad Lamarque, Tita Merello, Amanda Ledesma. We see him contacting film and radio archives to discover that many of the movies made by these personalities have long been lost. Some of what survives are damaged-looking clips, just a few moments with distorted soundtracks. Several of the tango songs are swooningly romantic; the genre of music was much more serious in South America than it was when imported for 'exotic' color in American movies and cover versions with new lyrics. In Spanish, the words Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos have an erotic promise that gets lost in translation. The context of the songs is almost always about painful yearning or the miserable betrayals of romance.

I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me paints a picture of one of the most celebrated of the tango vocalists, Ada Falcón. She was a household name in the 1930s and like a handful of other local superstars rose to heights of wealth and luxury. The makers can only locate a few bits of film that show the bright-eyed woman playing a hopeful singer in an Argentinian musical. As the filmmaker laments, no color photos exist of her famous green eyes. Ada Falcón sounds like a real Argentinian legend.

Ada's life reportedly played out like one of the tragic figures from the tango songs she sang. She was deeply in love with Francisco Canaro, a married bandleader and songwriter who eventually spurned her. Just when her popularity was at its highest she unaccountably withdrew from public life. She sold her large house, fancy cars and jewelry, and slipped into an anonymous exile.

That was in 1942, and when Lorena Muñoz and Sergio Wolf started their documentary Ada Falcón was presumed long gone. Only the vaguest rumors drifted about of her whereabouts - no direct information, just hints. Experts and music historians discuss the mysterious circumstances of Ada's disappearance while the filmmakers start out for the Argentinian hinterlands in search of her trail. It's almost a fantastic journey; one town they check out has the fanciful name of Salsipuedes - "Get out if you can."


The investigation continues. Unreliable witnesses claim to have seen Sra. Falcón walking in a certain town and avoiding everyone but the grocer. The trail leads to a church, which seems too pat of a solution even though the persistent rumor was that Ada had a religious conversion and disappeared to retreat from her "sinful" life. Then ... they find her in a Catholic nursing home, 96 years old, blind in one eye and barely in shape to be interviewed. The filmmakers place Falcón in front of a television and show her clips from sixty years before while the other patients look on. Not surprisingly, she's hostile to the whole idea and says contradictory things about her career, the songs, and the man who, according to legend, was the love of her life.

Many documentaries express a wish to uncover some secret or reach the source of their subject, and most have to be content with a final voiceover explaining why their goal turned out to be impossible. The quest in I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me is impossible but it succeeds anyway ... this is one special show, especially for fans of golden-era Latin music.

Facets Video's DVD of I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me is letterboxed at about 1:85. The new footage looks fine and the library footage and film clips from various old Argentinian musicals varies from good to quality that can be described as "barely survived." This qualifies as a special-circumstance docu and the clips are like archeological relics. The soundtrack also presents pieces of old recordings that fans will want to hear.

Savant's review copy was a pre-release disc without packaging. The menu has a selection button reading "extras", but when I hit it (on more than one player) it just played a section of the film. The English subtitles are rather small and not removable.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done To Me rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Good
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 18, 2005

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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