Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 16, 2019


Filed under: Argentina,Film — louisproyect @ 9:58 pm

Now available on Amazon Prime for a $4.99 rental, “Rojo” is an Argentine film set in a provincial small town in 1975, a year before the coup that toppled Isabel Perón. Despite the obvious hatred director/screenwriter Benjamín Naishtat has for this coup and all other manifestations of rightwing terror, it is not agitprop by any imagination. Instead it is a thriller with absurdist elements reminiscent of Buñuel but more in terms of laughing to keep from crying.

The film opens with a lawyer named Claudio (Darío Grandinetti) sitting by himself in a crowded restaurant studying a menu. He is then accosted by a younger man who basically asks him to give up the table to him if he couldn’t make up his mind about what to order. They go back and forth, with the younger man growing increasingly hostile. Finally, Claudio gives up his seat but does not leave the restaurant. Instead he leans against a wall about fifteen feet from the interloper and proceeds to lacerate him verbally, accusing him of not being raised properly by his parents, etc.

The man leaps from his table after hearing Claudio’s lawyerly prosecution and begins assailing everybody seated at their tables, yelling at the top of his lungs, “You are all Nazis” until he is thrown out. Claudio now returns to the table and is soon joined by his wife, who is habitually late.

After dinner, they return to the parking lot and begin driving off until they are blocked on the driveway by the man who was thrown out. After he hurls a rock through his window, Claudio goes off into the darkness to punish his assailant. Catching up with him, his plans are spoiled after the young man pulls a pistol out of his pocket and trains it on him. Within a minute or two, the man, who is obviously unhinged, instead shoots himself in the head. Still breathing (or wheezing to be exact), he remains alive if mortally wounded. Claudio makes a decision that will haunt him until the film’s stunning climax. Instead of taking him to a hospital emergency ward, he drives off into the desert and drags his still breathing body into the bushes. This act, while not exactly homicide, epitomizes the moral unaccountability of middle-class Argentineans. It foreshadows their willingness to put up with the growing militarization of the country and eventually the coup that turned their country into a living hell a year later.

I strongly recommend renting “Rojo”, which is one of the best narrative films I have seen in 2019, as well as the interview director Benjamin Naishtat gave to Filmmaker magazine.

Filmmaker: Tell me about some of the stories contained in Rojo. Claudio and one of his colleagues get involved with a house that was burnt down, mysteriously — it begins to dawn on the viewer that leftists may have lived there before the “accident.”

Naishtat: Researching Rojo was easy because many of the stories are from my family. My grandparents and my father were visiting the city of Córdoba in 1975; they were leftist militants, and my grandmother was a prominent union lawyer. She was disappeared into a secret prison, and her house, my family house, was torched. My father escaped before a commando unit came to his house, and he had to flee. He lived 10 years in exile, which is how he met my mother, in Paris—another exile. Some of the pictures in the house are from my family.

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