The Man

(Spanish with English subtitles). Starring Juan Villegas and Mariela Diaz. Directed by Carlos Sorin.
Running Time: 97 mins.
Rated: Rated M.
Here is a film with sub-titles that has attracted a wider audience than might have been expected. You don't have to be Argentinian to enjoy it.

It's a dog's life! Never truer than in this extremely amiable (well, not exactly 'shaggy') dog story. Director, Carlos Sorin took his audiences several years ago to Patagonia with three modest but effective short stories in Historias Minimas (which also included a story about a lost dog). We are now back again in what is for most people one of the most remote parts of the world. After Patagonia, there is Cape Horn and Antarctica. Sorin makes sure that we get a good look at it all, the mountains, the desert terrain. We also experience life there, the isolation as well as the small towns - which are still big enough to put on a dog show.

Juan (Juan Villegas) is trying to sell knives after being put out of work. When he is given a dog by a widow he has helped, he is advised to seek out Walter, an expert on pedigree dogs. The dogs we like are a matter of taste. Bombon is referred to as a champion and everybody admires him. Well, he seems to be something of a big brute with a touch of the uglies. For audiences who really enjoy their dog films, it is probably a good thing to recommend that very funny comedy about American dog shows and the eccentricities of their owners, Best in Show.

Actually, the cast look pretty plain themselves. In fact, one of the attractive things about the film is that the main protagonists do not look in the least like film stars. Juan is a simple, quiet fifty-something man. Walter is big, full of bravado. Maybe, he is a bit of a conman, but he knows dogs and is exuberant in his enthusiasm. When Bombon (Lechien) wins a prize and they celebrate at a Lebanese restaurant, Walter finishes up in jail after a brawl whereas Juan meets Susana, a middle-aged singer (no glamour either) who reads his fortune in the coffee grinds.

The dramatic crisis of the film is that Bombon won't service the dogs he is paid for breeding. Apparently, he has a weak libido though a champion in all other respects. It may seem a strange thing to say but there is an explicit unsimulated sex scene at the end of the film which audiences will welcome!! There is a happy ending.

Sorin likes people and he likes animals. He portrays them all with great empathy. He also has feeling for poorer people who have fewer chances in life. He seems to be saying that this is the lot of most people in this part of Argentina. They suffer from unemployment and hard financial times. However, his film is one of hope and humour. Winner of the award from the World Catholic Association for Communication, SIGNIS, in Troia, Portugal, June, 2005.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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