Re:View – ‘Carancho’

The Arts


It’s no secret that over the last five years I’ve stopped believing in Hollywood movies. It’s as if they have nothing at all to do with me. They fail to reflect anything in my life, or in the lives of anyone I know. I can’t believe Jennifer Aniston has trouble dating. I can’t believe anyone finds Will Ferrell funny. I don’t want to watch talking animals. I catch a few superhero movies for the odd fix of silly action, but most are based on seventy year-old characters and plot tropes. Hollywood, it seems, was so busy selling and selling that it forgot how to tell a story well.

The critically-lauded Argentinian noir thriller ‘Carancho’ (The Vulture) underscores everything that went wrong, and shows how to do it right. Ricardo Darin is the titular ambulance-chasing lawyer whose company creams off most of the insurance from traffic accidents, giving only a tiny amount back to the victims. Darin hates this, but is forced into the job because he once made a mistake that got him struck off. He breaks the law to get decent compensation for his clients, but in doing so he brings down the wrath of his cheated boss.

Martina Gusman is a beautiful, frazzled doctor injecting drugs to keep herself going through the long night shifts helping the survivors of horrendous freeway smashes. As the pair of mismatched but utterly natural lovers slowly come to rely upon each other, they find their respective professions compromised, and the violence they witness every night turns back onto them. Even as they grab at moments of happiness, you just know it can’t end well…

It’s impossible not to believe in these two. The camera follows them in thrillingly long takes, through bloodstained corridors, through cluttered offices, into claustrophobic, crowded spaces and through the sheer bloody insanity of what must be one of the world’s worst hospitals. At one point, the nurses have to barricade themselves into the operating theatre as a gun battle rages in the corridor outside, and the enemies are warring patients.

When the pair are forced into hatching a doomed scheme to get out of a final impossible situation, what began as a noir thriller takes on the scale of a greater tragedy, and what makes it all so moving is that you believe in the lovers and pray for them to escape. It’s a vision of hell and redemption, painful and moving because you side with the leads every step of the way. The night streets of Argentina look like seventies LA and the carefully framed shots reveal telling details of complicated lives. No-one is entirely pure, but perhaps some can be saved.

Don’t expect a remake any time soon.

5 comments on “Re:View – ‘Carancho’”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    You lasted a lot longer than I did.
    I bailed out on our films about the time they became multi-investor exercises and it took several minutes to get through the in Association withs, Presented bys and a Production ofs.
    And I was gone, mostly, when the price of plastic snacks in the lobby went sky high and the sound system forced you to bring industrial ear plugs (an item not yet sold in the lobby, but coming I’m sure).
    And well before, thankfully, 3D movies came back for the third time in my life. And there was a a kiddy movie with scratch cards you could scratch so you could smell the film. I’m told on good authority they printed some of the scents wrong.
    G-d some cable shows are better than the films here now.

  2. John Howard says:

    All I can say is, thank god for Wallace & Grommit.

    A story well told, heroes, heroines, villains, a story with a beginning, middle and end, cliffhanger moments, bathos, pathos, cutting edge science, nostalgia and last but not least, not a bit of CGI in sight…… Horray.

    Having said that, I am so glad that you bring these occasional Re-Views & Neglected Film blogs out because I get to hear about, and watch, films that I would never have come my way. “The Last of Sheila” being one. Can’t wait for Film Freak to come out.

  3. snowy says:

    Don’t rule out a remake, I can just see, ‘she who should not be named’ moodying about in scrubs, while shiny vamp boy angsts it up in a action packed thrill ride. (Don’t worry they are not talking, since she went “over the side”).

    But by the time Hollywood has gobbled up the original and digested it the end result, will be the same as anything eaten and digested. (Sorry anyone who is having their dinner/lunch/tea).

    I was also not much impressed by WF, but I did soften my stance slightly, when I was given a copy of ‘The Other Guys’. He’s normally cast to play borish, sexist, insensitive, neanderthals. But in this he plays the opposite, and he is not the lead, (he supports MarkyMark the well known underpant model).

    Not brilliant, but not bad, in a two underdogs save the day kind of way. ***

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    I particularly like the W & G short films with the wise sheep, the flock, the sheep dog and the farmer and his other animals. A great way to perk up. And the long film about the chickens and the big talking rooster busting out of the henyard.
    **220 pages into the Invisible Code and pacing myself, but it is difficult, very difficult. Great stuff! Very interesting to now read the book and have read the blog daily for some time; not unlike watching a chef preparing up a meal.
    “She looked like a small seaside town celebrating a centenary.” Nice.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Indeed, Dan, I noticed that line, but an even better one is the “sickly grey and yellow dawn broke over King’s Cross. The clouds looked as if they had fallen down a flight of stairs and badly bruised themselves.” The para is a little self indulgent but very good atmosphere.

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