Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Carlos Sorin: El Perro (2004)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,331

    Carlos Sorin: El Perro (2004)

    Carlos Sorin: El Perro (2004)

    Another Patagonian shaggy dog story

    Review by Chris Knipp

    In El Perro diraector Carlos Sorin takes up the same world he depicted in his 2002 Historias Minimas. Again a kindly, ineffectual man is at the center of it, who's 52 but seems older. He's just been laid off from a gas station where he worked for twenty years. This time again there is a dog, but the dog is more of a star, and the dog unifies the film, which is all about Juan Villegas (the actor's real name) and not split into several different stories like Historias Minimas.

    In the stark world of Patagonia where Sorin's films unfold his people, who might seem losers elsewhere, are more gently, forgivingly treated. Life meanders. It’s like a shaggy dog story, going nowhere slowly, but somehow it's okay.

    "Coco" Villlegas (which they pronounce "Vee-ZHAY-gas" down there) is trying to sell knives he's made by hand with carved handles of special, rare wood. But they're too expensive, some petroleum workers tell him, and then to add to the humiliation the security guard on the property says he's trespassing and he winds up giving away one of the knives to the guard so he’ll let him off. Villegas looks for work at a remote garage but the boss yells at him for parking in his spot.

    Helping a woman marooned by the roadside by towing her car 140 kilometers and then repairing its fan belt leads not to payment – nobody seems to have any money to spare– but gifts of homemade preserves and then, low and behold, a big white blob of a strange-looking pedigreed dog with papers included, offered to Coco as a gift. Its deceased master was French and was going to call his stud farm "Le Chien," which Villegas mangles into "Litchen" and makes the dog's name. Later we learn Litchen’s original name in the papers was “Bombón" and that Bombón, AKA Litchen, is a genuine Argentinian dogo, a breed that has a band of ardent admirers in the area. Obviously the Frenchman's widow just wanted to get rid of Litchen, but Villegas is led to believe he may have a treasure on his hands.

    One is continually torn between feeling confident that in this world consequences are usually benign, and fear that something dire will happen to the main character because he's so passive and naive.

    Coco is temporarily living with his daughter, but she won’t let him stay with the dog, so off he goes, apparently homeless, with Litchen sitting with his big comically mournful face next to Coco on the front seat of his little van.

    Before long Villegas is involved with a big volatile fat man named Walter (Walter Donado) whose hobby is showing and breeding dogos like Litchen, who introduces Villegas to the band of dogo aficionados and proposes to partner with Villegas to train and show Litchen and sell his stud services. Third prize in a local dog show soon follows. The rest of the movie is as meandering as the beginning but the breeder’s enthusiasm and lack of restraint engender some excitement. The story ends in a funny way when Litchen’s apparent lack of libido is cured. Villegas hasn’t really gotten anywhere, though. He’s still jobless, closer to penniless, and practically homeless, but somehow it all feels humanistic and life-affirming.

    Director Sorin works on a small canvas but his scenes can be memorable because they're so specific and vivid. He focuses up tight and close on the ruddy, un-fake faces of his non-actors, who seem pretty much themselves. El Perro is a tiny step forward from Historias Minimas in the direction of greater intensity and narrative focus, but Sorin and his collaborators accept his limitations as his strengths. He is one of those directors who must not push too hard. His Patagonia is the boonies, a region of low expectations. Villegas has never been to Buenos Aires and Sorin will never make it to Hollywood – or maybe even to Sundance. But it’s by remaining in this remote end of the world that he finds a voice a little unlike any other. One returns to his films as one meets again with an old friend who, however boring, is reassuringly familiar and unthreatening.

    Shown at Seattle Film Festival. Released in NYC June 2006.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Posts
    4,606
    The last sentence in your review would kill any interest I'd have in watching El Perro. Did you find it "boring"? How "familiar" are you with Patagonia and its inhabitants? Is this familiarity based on more than Historias Minimas? What's the point when you write "Sorin will never make it to Hollywood_or maybe even to Sundance"? Are these destinations the promised land for filmmakers from other countries? Some could interpret the statement as meaning Sorin somehow isn't good enough. I don't think that's your intention because in Patagonia he "finds a voice a little unlike any other". El Perro toured the country last summer as part of the Latin Beat series. I wrote a brief review: El Perro. I'm glad the film is being distributed commercially although I don't know if the distribution will expand beyond the Cinema Village in NYC. Do you?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,331
    I'm sure I haven't "killed" any of your interests--you are projecting yourself into someone else, who hasn't seen the film and whom you don't know. You're free to do that, but it's hypothetical. In reality, I hope you enjoyed El Perro as much as I did. In response to your disapproval of my description, I reserve the right to find that places and people feel familiar though I've not been to them or met them, and one can find people boring and still endearing and ultimately enlightening. Hollywood and Sundance are both destinations I have little interest in per se. Sorin's not being headed there is in his favor. But I wouldn't want readers to think they'll find El Perro exciting nor would it serve my purposes to echo the young cinephiles who call it "amazing." Surely "a voice a little unlike any other" is compliment enough. You have misinterepreted me, not for the first time, I fear. No, I don't know if El Perro is destined for release in other US theaters. Cinema Village showings are sometimes unique; it was here that I saw Sorin's Historias Minimas some time ago, and I don't think it appeared elsewhere.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Posts
    4,606
    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    I'm sure I haven't "killed" any of your interests--you are projecting yourself into someone else, who hasn't seen the film and whom you don't know. You're free to do that, but it's hypothetical.

    Exactly. I'm taking the point of view of a reader who hasn't seen the film.

    In response to your disapproval of my description, I reserve the right to find that places and people feel familiar though I've not been to them or met them

    I wanted to know why you use the term "familiar". How do I know whether or not you've been there, or seen many movies set there, or whether you've read about the region if I don't ask you? If not, I'm considering the possibility that Sorin didn't depict what makes Patagonia so unique. When I watched it, I thought he had done that, and revealed quite a bit about a subculture of dog breeders that's unfamiliar to me. But it's been almost a year since I watched El Perro.

    One can find people boring and still endearing and ultimately enlightening.

    Boring and endearing, yes. You're comparing Sorin's films to "an old friend who, however boring, is reassuringly familiar and unthreatening". This led me to seek clarification by asking if you found the film boring. I don't "disapprove" if you think it is, but I wasn't bored for a second so it would constitute a difference of opinion.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,331
    I think you understand what I meant. The world was familiar to me from the earlier film by Sorin, as I said at the outset. If you don't find anything boring, you may or may not be lucky, but I find stuff that I like boring, sometimes, or in places. In fact boredom can be excruciating, in movies that I like -- examples: Antonioini's L'Avventura, Van Sant's Gerry. Some friends have been and still are boring, but I remain fond of them. And they are very bright, and I can learn from them. Ain't life strange?

    In suggesting that Patagonia, surely one of the strangest places, seemed familiar, I was partly joking.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •