I've wanted to see the Argentinian film La Cienega for 4 or 5 years, so I was excited when it finally out on DVD. It was worth the wait.
Side note: How fitting that La Cienega (which I didn't realize means the swamp in english) is a major arterial in LA. I never gave much thought to the non-english names of the streets or cities where I grew up. The lagoon. The swamp. The tar. Succinct and declarative like a horror movie title, perfect for a romantic decaying city.
La Cienega so oozes a southern gothic type of steamy sensual rot. The storytelling is elliptical but not surreal, it cuts into the dailiness of their lives evenly. It's a meditation on loss of control, entropy, nostalgia for a long gone social order, squandered youth/wealth/opportunity, what happens when you give up.
A sense of entitlement permeates the walls of a dilapidated country home of fair skinned european decendend Argentinians. The class struggle between the indians and europeans is a primary focus. One of the teen age daughters (who refuses to bathe or change out of her bathing suit) is obsessed with her young dark skinned maid, she thanks god for her, follows her around but the maid is annoyed and indifferent and runs off pregnant with her boyfriend in the end.
There are young kids running around laughing and shrieking while pickled adults are bumping into walls, falling, bleeding. Red wine on ice; ice clinking against glass; blood on the edges. The central image is a green swampy pool lurking in every scene waiting to consume a child. Everyone is in danger, their vulnerability is highlighted constantly. The kids have scratched faces, broken noses, wounds on their legs and arms, one child lost an eye. Their mother falls and cuts her thin, boney chest on broken glass. Any sense of nurturing completely lost.
A cow is stuck in the mud as little boys wander the hills with guns. The mother lies in bed all day as the kids wander around the town. A brother and sister act more like lovers. A six year old falls off a ladder and may or may not be dead. All very dark, but it seemed to say get ready for the new order.
Somehow the whole portrait felt refreshing, the young were ascendent. They weren't calcified, their environment was wild, but they didn't fight it. They didn't try to control anything, they were wounded but resilient. Connecting with each other in their odd fragmented ways.