May 23, 2013
A yummy film
The best films you’ve never seen
“You try to do something that is not only reflected on what’s most immediate. Yet, a film you make on a very specific issue may become universal. But your own identitity and personal imprint has a lot to do with how you approach your material: your identity exists long before you do. I think that in most personal works, you can see the traits of who you are no matter how universal your work is,” stated Argentine indie filmmaker Gustavo Postiglione in an interview regarding El asadito (2000), one of his best-known features.
A filmmaker recognized for skillfully turning particular concerns into universal queries, Gustavo Postaglione’s identity was already present in his first film, the famed El asadito. The storyline? Actually, I wouldn’t use the word “storyline”, but instead “situation/s” which provide the basis for a non-conventional narrative that probes into many seemingly invisible – and unforeseen – layers of something as anecdotic as a friends’ meeting can be. Yet, there’s more than meets the eye at first sight.
On December 31, 1999, seven old friends gather on the terrace of the house of Tito, the host, to enjoy the most typical Argentine feast: a good, hearty, old-school asado (barbecue). In the time they spend together (up to the early hours of the first day of the new millennium), these outspoken, opinionated fellows will engage in discussions on the most ordinary issues plenty of Argentines like to dwell on: women, soccer, fidelity, cars, friendship, comic books, games, hobbies, and, of course, cinema too.
By the time their get-together is over, much more intimate revelations will have surfaced, having drawn the ups and downs of their everyday existence. Written, directed, and edited by Postiglione, and starring Tito Gómez, Gerardo Dayub, Héctor Molina, Raúl Calandra, Carlos Resta, David Edery, Daniel Briguet and Pablo Fossa, El asadito is a rare bird within the vast realm of the so-called New Argentine cinema, which has been pushing the boundaries of the language of cinema ever since it nominally emerged back in 1992 with Martín Rejtman’s poignant and witty Rapado.
In taking the friends’ meeting as an excuse to examine the lives of his characters, Postiglione not only delivers a pleasant and highly engaging depiction of the joys and tribulations of your average Joe, but he also manages to skilfully have their individual stories converge to make a larger picture that mirrors some of the many facets of male bonding and Argentine idiosyncrasy. With a deft control of an apparently erratic narration, he pulls off quite a hard task in a most transparent and lucid manner, which makes it all the more interesting.
Remarkably shot in grainy and contrasted black and white, with a catchy musical score as an effective narrative device to punctuate the film’s high points, solid performances from professional and non-professional actors, and an amazingly unobtrusive camera that never misses the slightest details and small gestures that build these friends’ universe, El asadito smoothly navigates – as do many other local films shot in recent years – the blurry frontier between documentary and fiction, thus proving once again how thin the line between both formats is.
As you watch the film, you are bound to feel you’re the eighth guest, an invisible witness to the groups’ most candid and genuine conversations, carrying forward dialogue that always rings true, be it in what’s said, but above all, in how it’s said. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Postiglione has made a truly insightful exploration of the spoken word as conveyed in cinema, revisiting conventional modes while opening up a path to news ones as well.
In addition, since the entire film is shot in one location, the terrace of the host, over the course of a single night, Postiglione has cleverly divided that one space into several smaller spaces, and hence he allows each character to have his own slice of the cake, while never losing track of the group as a whole.
On the minus side, you could say that not all the characters’ conversations and stories are equally appealing – even if this is a very subjective observation. For instance, take the man who talks about the role women play in life: his speech is somewhat trite and redundant when compared to the others’. There’s a scene when one of the character suddenly makes a move that endangers his own life – the idea is more than fine, but its execution looks staged and phony, as opposed to the rest of the film.
All in all, although not a perfect flick, El asadito is a refreshing surprise that displays its true colours as it unfolds effortlessly and, for the most part, in a very convincing manner.