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November 1, 2014
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Cronopios and Famas jump to big screen

Cronopios and Famas as seen by Daniel Santoro.
By Julio Nakamurakare
Herald Staff

Directed by Julio Ludueña, endearing characters get animated feature treatment

Julio Cortázar’s surrealist short-story collection Historias de Cronopios y de Famas may not be the easiest text to transpose to the big screen, for these imaginary/real beings are everywhere and are easily recognizable but at the same time they have this strange ability to go unnoticed, lost in a crowd of unremarkable people.

Strange creatures, these Cronopios and Famas — they are ubiquitous and not easy to spot, let alone apprehend their true nature. Cronopios and Famas, you see, are equally elusive in spite of their opposite nature — while the former are malleable and adaptable to changing circumstances, the latter are more rigid and less capable of modifying their structured personalities.

In spite of the literary notion known as intertextuality, according to which every text/work is in permanent dialogue with other works, there’s also this concept revolving around the autonomous nature and autonomous interpretation of any given piece of art. Not that these two trends are contradictory in terms of analysis, but sometimes the public at large forcibly leans toward one or the other.

In the case of Cronopios and Famas, familiarity with Cortázar’s text does go a long way toward understanding — without overexplanation — what these fabulous creatures stand for in the writer’s universe. Cronopios and Famas are not enemies, nor are they incompatible. True, there is friction between Cronopios and Famas, but they would not be able to exist without each other.

Once these facts are established, it’s not difficult to understand why and how Julio Ludueña’s animated feature Historias de Cronopios y de Famas works so smoothly as an animated feature. The secret lies in the director’s ability to seamlessly illustrate, through the work of outstanding visual artists, the comings and goings, doings and undoings, unsettling and comical most of them, of these creatures surreptitiously debunking culturally acquired notions of how things work in the “real” world.

Director Ludueña turned to the representation of Cronopios and Famas envisaged by ten celebrated visual artists: Carlos Alonso, Daniel Santoro, Antonio Seguí, Patricio Bonta, Crist, Ricardo Espósito, Luis Felipe Noé, Magdalena Pagano, Luciana Sáez and Ana Tarsia. In true Cronopios and Famas fashion, their styles and techniques, oddly dissimilar on the surface, coalesce into a coherent whole in the hands of another equally gifted artist — filmmaker Ludueña, who resorted to freeware technology to make this animated fantasy come true.

Ludueña’s selection of the Cronopios and Famas stories in his film is aesthetic, literary and ideological, as befits a writer like Cortázar who, at one point in his personal and professional life, openly embraced the leftwing governments of Latin America. As such, the film presents viewers with emotional, humorous and ironic stories about power and authority, and the way Cronopios and Famas come to terms with them. In most cases, power is represented as an excessive, sinister force and, in spite of their dissimilar view of the world’s conandrums, both Cronopios and Famas find themselves struggling to strike a balance between two opposing forces.

From a strictly cinematic standpoint, each episode in Historias de Cronopios y de Famas, the film, is carefully, meticulously yet almost invisibly segued onto the next.

Each story is autonomous in that it depicts a quest or a confrontation through the very end to the galloping beat of a score that encourages each side to make a bold move against an opposing force, only to have the same type of dispute start all over again in the next story.

The unifying element that gives Historias de Cronopios y de Famas, the film, its undisputed cohesion, is the risible yet disquieting discordance between two sides, the strife being punctuated by a roaring thunderclap or a minimalist, barely audible sound of a leaf as it hits the ground.

Exquisitely drawn and animated and set to a haunting music score — with Ezequiel Ludueña’s La milonga de los cronopios and La balada de los famas as most suitable centrepieces — this film version of Historias de Cronopios y de Famas hits the right note in that it conveys Cortázar’s ironic view of how things work beneath the surface in a comically absurd, politically polarized world ruled by forces beyond humankind’s control.

Production notes

Historias de Cronopios y de Famas. Written and directed by Julio Ludueña, based on a selection of Julio Cortázar’s short story collection of the same title. Animation team led by: Juan Pablo Bouza. Voiceover artists: Stella Maris Closas, Cristina Tejedor, Aldo Pastur and others. NR. Running time: 86 minutes.

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