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Imagining Argentina

Universal // R // October 11, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted November 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author

The Film:

Focusing on the tragic events after the military coup from 1976 until 1983 Imagining Argentina is a film that strives to recreate a realistic picture of the abuse and political repressions which thousands of leftist sympathizers experienced in the land of Eva Peron. Many of them disappeared without a trace prosecuted by a government that encouraged "proper techniques" to squash the rising discontent between millions of Argentineans. It wasn't until 1982 however when the military elite finally faced some harsh criticism over the Falkland Islands' crisis and eventually stepped down revealing a chilling record of countless deaths. To this day the families of those that disappeared are still hoping for justice.

Based on the 1987 novel by Lawrence Thornton Imagining Argentina boasts a stellar cast of internationally renowned actors such as Antonio Banderas (Carlos Rueda), Emma Thompson (Cecilia Rueda), and Fernando Tielve (Enrico) among others. The plot of the film is rather simple. Carlos Rueda is desperately trying to discover the whereabouts of his politically outspoken wife who has been kidnapped by the Argentinean secret police. But Carlos, who works as a stage choreographer in a local children's theater, hardly has any leads to rely on. His only hope is his recently discovered ability to "connect" with other people although they might be hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Determined to find out what really happened to his wife Carlos embarks on a treacherous journey with many unknowns.

Imagining Argentina is likely to draw some parallels with Costa-Gavras's film Missing (1982) about a father in search of his missing son. However, while Costa-Gavras' film relied on a well-paced narrative Imagining Argentina somehow fails to deliver the urgency one would expect from such a politically charged picture. Unfortunately after a well put-together introduction the film veers off in a direction that would have been more suitable for a mindless late-night production-the overused by Hollywood supernatural thrillers that have very little to offer to those interested in serious cinema certainly come to mind. Imagining Argentina should have been much more than that. The cast and more importantly the story beg for a different approach and at least as far as I am concerned it seems like Christopher Hampton simply let this one get away.

This is a film that is bound to spur some extreme reactions and judging by the way it was greeted by both critics and audiences at the Venice Film Festival I think it is fair to say that Imagining Argentina most definitely lived up to the expectations. The narrative, the weakest aspect of this film, obviously leaves much to be desired as it simply destroys the powerful political message(s) which could be found in Lawrence Thornton's novel. As a result the film feels more like an unfinished attempt in originality where The Sixth Sense (1999) meets Missing (1982).

The one shiny spot of this quite unfortunate mess is the partially realistic depiction of violence and torture which somehow keeps Imagining Argentina grounded; the suffering which Cecilia and consequently her daughter are exposed to keeps the viewer alert expecting a climax where all the missing components of this "puzzle" will line up delivering satisfying results. Unfortunately neither the story nor the acting truly elevate Imagining Argentina to what it should have been-a realistic portrait of a country under the influence of a troubled past.

How Does the DVD Look? Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Imagining Argentina looks fairly good boasting stellar tone colors, a good degree of contrast, and a print free of damage. Edge enhancement appears to be kept at a satisfactory level and most of the time does not detract from your viewing experience.

How Does the DVD Sound? With an English 5.1 track and a Spanish 5.1 dub Imagining Argentina hardly offers anything worthy of discussion. A stellar audio presentation that gets the job done and it is also likely to meet the requirements of those with even higher than usual standards. With optional Spanish, French, and English HOH subtitles options.

Extras: There are no extras to be found on this release (other than a few previews which come immediately as you insert the disc in your player but are not forced).

Final Thoughts: Built upon an explosive mix of anger, pain, and a desire to forgive Imagining Argentina could have been a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives while struggling to expose a truly inhumane political regime. Unfortunately, after a very impressive introduction the film loses its direction and ends up being just another part-political-part-supernatural (!!) thriller. Rent it!!

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