A Bizarre But Touching Christmas Eve In Argentina
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"FELICIDADES (an Argentinean greeting that is used for Merry Christmas,etc) is a rare little film that sweeps us into a new kind of holiday madness and carries many messages of universal depth. Christmas Eve in Rosario and Buenos Aires finds a melange of odd yet lovable characters in that last minute whirlwind of anxiety that accompanies Christmas preparations. During the titles that open this film we see a kitchen filled with far too many chefs as though to let us know that too many cooks spoil the broth. That kitchen is forever gone once the film opens but the 'broth' remains. And oddly enough the opening is a Bat Mitzvah in Rosario where a loony standup comedian sets the mood for a farce. In the audience is a young man in love, who must get to Buenos Aires to be with his beloved. The beginning of the madness pairs the comedian with the lover in a hilarious car trip to Buenos Aires that signals just a few of the random happenstances that weave throughout the story. Out of gas in the middle of nowhere, the lover takes off on foot in search of gas and ....Meanwhile, a physician delivers an infant boy (heads up!) and leaves the hospital to stroll in the heat of the night, eyeing a beautiful women with whom he plans a tryst, only to be waylaid by encountering a wheelchair bound man of the street who manages to have our physician carry him up flights of stairs to his shoddy apartment. This chance encounter engenders some of the most tender moments of the film as rich doctor and poor paraplegic merge into a sensitive bonding. Meanwhile, on the street as a last minute shopper for a specific toy for his son, is a dentist who befriends an elderly ailing man and the two are entrapped by police to serve as witnesses for a warrant-less search of a 'criminal's' apartment. Once in the apartment the law gives way to the division of the spoils of the of the contents until our dentist is able to extricate his elderly companion to a hospital. After the good doctor leaves his paraplegic friend he finds his way back to his tryst, only to accidentally lead to the demise of the woman's tiny dog and in trying to hide this fact he sees the lover (from the Bat Mitzvah in Rosario) knocking unsuccessfully at her door.Sound jumbled and intricate and bizarre and Felliniesque? Well, it is, and this is where Director Lucho Bender gives notice that he is a talent to watch. He is blessed with a cast of superb actors - Gaston Pauls (Nine Queens), Silke, Luis Machin, Carlos Belloso, Pablo Cedron, Marcelo Mazzarello, among others. The photography is splendid, and the atmosphere is intoxicating. This is one of those special films that bode well for repeated watchings. In Spanish with English subtitles."
If you want to feel less cheerful during the holidays - this
Penumbra | Atlanta, GA USA | 03/04/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Felicidades" is the equivalent of wishing someone "merry Christmas." But Christmas Eve is anything but merry for the characters in this bleak holiday offering from Argentina.
This depressing and disjointed story takes place on an exhaustingly hot December 24. A man attending a party in Rosario encounters surreal obstacles as he tries to make it to Buenos Aires to catch a plane. A comedian performing at the same party finds himself stranded by the side of a deserted road. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, a young doctor is trying to pick up a girl for a date, but gets sidetracked by a paraplegic who needs help. A dentist, trying desperately to find the toy his son wants for Christmas, is picked up by the police to serve as a witness in an investigation. An elderly man trying to get his medicine and get home to see his daughter is also picked up as a witness. Their lives are connected by fewer than six degrees of separation, but they are all alone on the day when many people want most to be with someone who loves them.
We feel the heat and oppression of a hot summer night in Buenos Aires. It's already dark when the story takes place; the stores are closing; and you can't hire a car or taxi for any price - so we know the characters are basically out of time in order to do what they need to do by Christmas. They are all decent people, and it's impossible not to feel some sympathy for them. At the same time I found it terribly frustrating that they didn't do just a tiny bit more advance planning. The movie probably achieves what it set out to do, but I found it aggravating.
To make matters worse, "Felicidades" borrows heavily from movies that were released only a few years earlier. For example, the man desperately trying to catch his flight ends up in the back of a truck in a scene that's almost identical to one in "Home Alone" - except instead of Christmas polkas the musicians are playing Chrismas songs on Bolivian panpipes. The doctor tries to impress his date by playing fetch-the-ball with her beloved puppy with the same result that occurred in "There's Something About Mary" - but without the ensuing hilarity.
The shining light of the entire project is Gastón Pauls ("Nueve reinas" and "Iluminados por el fuego). He's excellent as the dentist, a decent guy who could go home and sip cider with his family but is thwarted at every turn.
The DVD is bare bones. There are no extras - which is probably a good thing in this case. It's in Spanish with non-optional English subtitles burned in.
Argentina cinema has been exporting diamonds for the past decade and a half. I suppose they were overdue for a lump of coal. This movie will appeal to Christmas haters and those who like wallowing in misery. Personally, I recommend skipping this movie but, if you feel you must, just don't see it in December!"