Dir. CarlosSorin. Arg-Sp. 2004. 96mins.
As spare,intimate and intentionally unglamorous as Carlos Sorin's previous film MinimalStories, Bombon, El Perro is likely to follow a similar fate: rakingin a bagful of festival awards, collecting plenty of favourable reviews andgenerating better than average business on the arthouse circuit.
The film won theFIPRESCI award at San Sebastian at the weekend and has already been sold byBavaria Film to TF1 (France), Cinequanon (Japan), Pathe (UK), A Film (Benelux),Lev Films (Israel), Audiovisual (Greece) and Hopscotch (Australia) amongothers.
The story of aunemployed middle-aged petrol station attendant and a scary dog with a sweettemper, Sorin sets his story against the vast empty spaces of Patagonia,focussing on plain, homely, real-life types. In its own gently minimalist wayit offers a subtle, fascinating portrait of the Argentine outback and thepeople living there.
For the last 20years Juan Villegas has worked at a remote petrol station but is left joblesswhen the place is sold to a new owner. Until something else comes along hetries to make ends meet by fashioning original knife handles but finds nocustomers and so takes on any odd job that might come his way.
In exchange for onejob - fixing up an old Mercedes - he gets a large, white, ferocious looking dogin lieu of payment. But, as the former owner claims, Bombon - or Le Chien as heis referred to most of the time - is meek, polite and accommodating. He maygrunt alarmingly once in a while, but most of the time he will allow strangersto handle him, check his teeth and appraise his gait without even protesting.
Eventually Villegaslearns that the animal could not only win lots of international awards in dogexhibitions but also make his owner rich by spreading his valuable seed aroundfor money. Villegas teams up with a trainer who is willing to prepare Bombonfor the shows so long as he will split any future profits with him.
But his peacefuldisposition becomes a problem when it comes to breeding, for Bombon wouldrather share his bitches' berth than satisfy their lust. It does not affect,however, Villegas' affection for Bombon nor his profound faith in his newprofession as a dog breeder.
Sorin tells hisstory in the simplest, most unpretentious manner, using camerawork to adoptsthe natural viewpoint of a documentary. Perfectly integrating the sparsePatagonian landscape into the story, Bombonfeels like a vast, innocent, rather melancholy painting of the countryside,with information to be pried out of its unobtrusive details.
These small touchesinclude a policeman in an early scene accepting Villegas' "gift" of a carvedknife instead of arresting him; how the unemployment crisis affects both youngand old alike and the get-rich-fast dreams that rarely materialise.
The most delightfulpart of the film is the characters in it, neither heroes nor villains and allauthentically and truthfully delivered. None of the cast are professionals; alluse their own names and acquit themselves admirably. Villegas is mild,softly-spoken, kindly disposed and went back to his old job as a parkingattendant in Buenos Aires once the shoot was over.
Prod cos: Guacamole Films, OK Films, Wanda Vision, Chemo
Int'l sales: Bavaria Film Int'l
Prod: Oscar Kramer
Scr: Santiago Calori, SalvadorRoselli, Carlos Sorin
Cine: Hugo Colace
Ed: Mohamed Rajid
Prod des: Margarita Jusid
Music: Nicolas Sorin
Main cast: Juan Villegas, WalterDonado, Mico Estevez, Kita Ca. Pascual Condito, Claudina Fazzini, Carlos Rossi,Mariela Diaz, Rosa Valsecchi, Sabino Morales, Rolo Adnrada,Gregorio