Feb 14, 2011
A very interesting but flawed Argentinian noir by Pablo Trapero, with my honey Ricardo Darín and Trapero's wife Martina Gusman, Carancho is a gripping story about Héctor Sosa, an ambulance chaser who wants out (Darín) and who falls in love with Luján, an ambulance medic (Gusman). The story is phenomenal and Darín as always, excellent, but the movie is marred by some wrongheaded choices. First thing that bothered me was the spastic editing, which feels like the filmmakers don't trust their own story and they barely let their actors breathe life into their roles; they keep cutting abruptly and before the scenes get a chance to bloom. There are several scenes that seem to serve no purpose, while one pines for scenes that illuminate character, particularly hers.
I don't know if Darín is such an authoritative actor that he can create character where it is barely written, but Gusman's character doesn't fare as well. She is sketchily written and although I didn't have issues believing that she would fall for this man, a hack whom Darin succeeds in making not only credible but sympathetic, I had to supply most of her motives because the writers don't bother. At first Luján appears as a no-nonsense, competent medic with a bit of a drug problem. For two thirds of the film, she takes command of every situation with cool headed aplomb. But by the third act she becomes whiny and clingy and even though one can understand her reasons, this seems to be totally out of character. She is like another person. Crying and clinging are supremely uninteresting choices for an actor. The movie collapses under the weight of many incomprehensible choices: there is no real passion between the two main characters. A stylistic reliance on too much blood and a relentlessly dark color palette veer into the grotesque and strain credibility. Plus, the movie has a very contrived ending that is meant to be ironic but had the audience actually laughing. This film is weirdly oblique and baroque at the same time: it skimps on telling detail and overdoes the obvious.
Still, I enjoyed big chunks of it, mainly because the story is so good.
I really liked the fact that it features an Homme Fatale. He is the one who insinuates himself and his attendant chaos into her life, which is great, for a change. And I loved that it depicts a never-ending spiral of endemic cynicism and corruption (lawyers, ambulance drivers, doctors, police: everyone is tainted). In movies involving ambulances and medics, the focus is always on the dangers suffered by the victims, but Carancho shows that ambulance personnel are vulnerable to danger themselves. In one scene, an injured drunk harasses Luján as she is trying to tend to him in the ambulance and there is a darkly comic violent fight between two injured parties that takes place as they are both lying in the E.R. Both incidents are treated with a bracing dose of dark humor. Some of its twists make Carancho feel like a refreshing addition to the genre, but it is a not altogether satisfying film noir.