THE MOVIE CHALLENGES

TESIS SOBRE UN HOMICIDIO (THESIS ON A MURDER)

ARGENTINA, 2013

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So far Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio has not been made available to the people of Britain.  The DVD, though, can be imported from Spain. The bonus is that it has English subtitles. Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio came from the same company that produced the memorable Argentinian movie, Los Secretos De Sus Ojos.  Inevitably the two films were compared. Los Secretos De Sus Ojos recalled the Argentinian dictatorship and was great but, despite the acclaim and relevance, it had one big hole in the plot and an overextended ending. Los Secretos De Sus Ojos was not perfect.  And neither is Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio.   Indeed most of the film is tosh.  Argentinian cinema, though, is accomplished and smart, the strongest in South America. There is tosh and slick tosh.

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In the same way that grey London is often disguised by BBC drama the photography in Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio flatters Buenos Aires.  We see attractive restaurants, flawless apartments and really big buildings.  The movie is not just good to look at.  Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio is an example of how the conservative ears of cinema audiences can be satisfied without making the soundtrack routine. The orchestral arrangements remain but are highlighted by additions, simple chord arrangements emphasised by the piano or a horn. The contrived thriller plot of Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio may require indulgence but the film is more than a guilty pleasure.  If too much of what happens in Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio is unbelievable, the movie is luxuriant.  It also stimulates thought. The film has something to say about masculinity.  Female characterisation suffers, of course, but thanks to the presence of the handsome, sympathetic and accomplished actor Ricardo Darin as Roberto Bermúdez the film also appeals to women.

Mixing homage and the novel, clever audacity and some corn, Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio is rooted in or sourced from three films. These are the two classics by Hitchcock, Rear Window and Strangers On A Train, and the far from classic Sleuth.  Rear Window needed the paranoid suspicion of a weakened man.  Strangers On A Train had a destructive friendship between two accomplished but naïve males who were unable to understand one another.  Sleuth explored a problematical relationship between two men separated by age. All these elements exist in Tesis Sobre Un HomicidioSleuth began as a one set play.   Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio is Sleuth out on the streets and given fresh air.

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There are benefits to growing old but they soon disappear when challenged by the young.  Tesis Sobre Un Homicido may have faults but no one can claim it lacks ambition. Too much ambition is the problem.  Tesis Sobre Un Homicido attempts to deliver a crowd pleasing thriller full of surprises and a psychological study of a flawed man and even masculinity.  Each of the two elements weakens the other.  The plot means less attention is given to the psychological aspect, and the psychological drama undermines a story that, because of its contrived and abstract nature, needs to be a watertight puzzle.  Rear Window and Strangers On A Train have daft plots and require coincidence but the psychology is handled in a light way.  Their plots survive as sound constructions.  Sleuth may have more fame but it is inferior to Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio. The Argentinian film is never quite as self-regarding or as self-important as Sleuth.  This makes it more likeable.  Of the three films that provide the source it is the most ambitious that is inferior to Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio. This is not a coincidence.

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Throughout the movie the age of Roberto Bermúdez is made obvious and emphasised. He is an academic and legal celebrity who benefits from the flattery and attention of young admirers.  At the launch of his book he is picked up by a young attractive woman. They have a one-night stand, and later we are given a glimpse of her naked body.  The shot is discrete but it is enough for the audience to realise her physical perfection.  After the glimpse of the young woman the camera cuts to Roberto in his boxer shorts and t-shirt.  It is clear that this has not been a sexual encounter between physical equals. Roberto is phoning his ex-wife Monica, the woman he really wants to share his bed.  He apologises for the late call and tells Monica he was not aware of the time.  On at least three occasions in the film he has to ask someone the time.   When he visits a shopping mall, he asks Monica if the glasses he tries are suitable for his age. Roberto neither understands ageing nor how the passage of time will affect his life.  The emotional explosion of Roberto occurs in a discotheque. Frustrated by being remote from the young he becomes violent. His progress to self-destruction becomes inevitable. The discotheque scene is not the equal of the football match in Los Secretos De Sus Ojos but, like the tracking shot that leads into the football ground, there is no other discotheque in cinema that is so distinct. The entertainment is spectacular and loaded with surprise.  We see a man running and tied to a spot and bodies splash against a plastic sheet covered in water.   This peek into the sub-conscious reveals the troubled spirit of Roberto and his burden, a masculine identity that refuses to concede and mature.

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Although Roberto attracts girls who are interested in seduction his relationships with women are unsatisfactory.  Roberto may not be a rock star but in his world there is flattery, and it has not helped him understand the opposite sex.  The relationship with Monica, his ex-wife, is important because she is the one person who knows him. Their scenes, though, are underwritten. When Monica and Roberto meet, they do nothing more than provide exposition. The scenes between Roberto and Monica demonstrate how the plot of a thriller can undermine characterisation. More about the two people is revealed by his answering machine. Roberto has left the name of Monica on the message for callers. He is still dependant on her but this dependency is not explored in the script.

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Flattery from admiring students is transient. The real friends of Roberto are his male colleagues and rivals. Roberto abuses his body with cigarettes and ubiquitous whisky but he has the idea that his training as a boxer will help him to remain potent.  Instead of intimacy with women he has competition with other men.  Gonzalo Ruiz Cordera is the young man that Roberto suspects may be the psychopathic murderer.  Roberto may have his issues, and the cigarettes and whisky do not help, but it would take a lot more than the fragility and vanity of a middle-aged man to believe Gonzalo is a psychopath after one brief conversation at a book launch. The suspicions of Roberto occur too early in the film.  The plot would have benefitted from his suspicions appearing after a subsequent encounter in an art gallery.  Even then Gonzalo has said little more than a rebellious know-all student. The relationship between the two men, though, is interesting. The naivety of Gonzalo and his links to the unrevealed past and youth of Roberto benefit from being obscure.  The sparse dialogue of Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio, though, does not always aid exposition.  A viewer has to be alert to understand just what and how Roberto is investigating.   Neither the theft of the keys to the flat of Gonzalo nor the significance of the supermarket bill makes much sense although the latter is a clever idea.

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There are several movie references.  The water that falls from the bathroom shower into the glass of whisky is a neat variation on Psycho. The ending evokes the final shot in Citizen Kane. It suggests ambiguity except any sane viewer will form only one conclusion. Either that or ignore how the scene in the discotheque ended.  It does not matter too much.  If the two elements in the film do not always hang together, the proceedings move at pace and demonstrate gifted invention.

This week there has been familiar British indignation in an overheated Parliament about an international incident that deserves to be condemned but pales into insignificance when compared to the recent war crimes that the UK Government and its Russian foes have facilitated.  The talents behind Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio should not be criticised for struggling with a difficult cinematic challenge.  The film attempts to entertain and confront native weaknesses within Argentinian masculinity.  The ambition may be excessive but such objectives only exist within those who have a sense of responsibility. In British politics responsibility has been rare for some time. This week free school meals have been abolished for low-income families that earn less than £8000 per year. The elected representatives who passed this legislation claim each year on average £180,000 worth of expenses.  Tesis Sobre Un Homicidio examines the consequences of faded potency, paranoia, obsession and pathetic chest beating.  It is made by people who have a conscience. They should be welcomed even if on this occasion a not unpleasant result needs to be indulged.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

 

 

 

 

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