The Spanish Film Festival launched last Monday evening at the Chauvel Cinema with sangria and savouries and a screening of the sweet Argentinean comedy, CHINESE TAKEAWAY.
Predominantly from Spain, the festival features films from other Spanish speaking countries, including Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Columbia. Four of the films come from Argentina and if CHINESE TAKEAWAY is anything to go by, the Argentine contingent alone will be worth the price of a ticket.
The film opens in China with a most surprising, astonishing, bizarre bovine incident then moves to Argentina where we meet the cranky, contrary Roberto Caesar, prickly proprietor of a ferreteria, which to the English seeing eye would suggest weasel wares per chance, but in Spanish translates to hardware store, per favour.
Roberto is a loner, a collector of things, including cuttings of bizarre stories from the newspapers. In a curious coincidence, he stumbles upon the Chinese man from the opening sequence as the fellow is being ditched from a taxi near the airport.
The foreigner, Jun, has an address tattooed on his arm and Roberto drives him there. It is the address of Jun’s uncle, but his father’s brother has moved on.
Receiving no help from the local police or the Chinese embassy, two scenes that brilliantly burst the bureaucratic bubble that beleaguers so many of us at times, Roberto offers to billet the boy, setting a deadline of seven days to find his relatives or return to China.
With no common language, it’s a bewildering time for both men, but a relationship develops between the curmudgeon and his eager to please lodger.
CHINESE TAKEAWAY offers the best kind of comedy, the laughs rising effortlessly from character and situation, layered with pathos as a serious plight underpins proceedings.
Ricardo Darin is spectacular in his personification of isolation, a legacy of a motherless childhood and an absurd stint in military national service. This distancing cannot disguise his inherent integrity, honesty and courage, however, as we see in his deeds with Jun. It is seen with crystal clarity by Mari played by Muriel Santa Ana, who is head over heels in love with him and is willing to wait for his reticence to romance recede.
Written and directed by Sebastian Borensztein, CHINESE TAKEAWAY is a lovely, charming, bittersweet, funny film that celebrates the unpredictability of life, its absurdities and its genuine joys.
CHINESE TAKEAWAY screens at The Chauvel Cinema Friday July 6 at 6.30pm and at the Palace Norton Street Sunday July 8 at 6.30pm, Thursday July 12 at 9.15pm and Saturday July 14 at 6.45pm.
The 15th Spanish Film Festival runs at both venues from July 4 through to July 15.
© Richard Cotter
20th June, 2012
Tags: Spanish Film Festival 2012 Preview, Chauvel Cinema, Ricardo Darin, Muriel Santa Ana, Sebastian Borensztein, CHINESE TAKEAWAY, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.