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Experimental Latin American Cinema

History and Aesthetics

By Cynthia Tompkins

Publication Year: 2013

This groundbreaking exploration of experimental Latin American film applies Deleuzian theories of cinema in a comparative approach to examine multiple genres and works from the most important national cinematic traditions

Published by: University of Texas Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I thank Arizona State University for providing research funds to present preliminary versions of the material included in this book at local, national, and international venues. I am grateful to audiences in Arizona (Council for Latin American Studies and Association of Spanish Professors—ADEUU, 2010), Utah...

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Introduction: Mise-en-Scène, a Seemingly International Staging

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pp. 1-45

In this book I analyze experimental films from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru of the past twenty years. The focal films in the chapters were made in 1998–2010. These films are experimental in that they have been influenced by the first (late 1920s–early 1930s) and second (1960s–1970s) avant-gardes as evidenced...

Part One: A Neonoir Skew to the Action-Image

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pp. 46-87

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1. A Shimmering Suture: Fabián Bielinsky’s Epileptic El aura

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pp. 49-59

El aura (2005) is the last fi lm that the late Fabián Bielinsky (1959–2006) completed in his lifetime. Bielinsky achieved international acclaim for Nueve reinas (Nine Queens, 2000), which chronicles an elaborate scheme to exchange a set of purportedly highly valued postage stamps for a forged replica. The film’s plot...

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2. Slippery Criminal Pleasures: Intermediality and Voyeurism in Jorge Furtado’s O homem que copiava

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pp. 60-73

Brazilian director Jorge Furtado’s O homem que copiava (The Man Who Copied, 2003) follows the classic Hollywood noir conventions, with a couple of murders, a protagonist crazed by greed, and a deceitful woman who ensnares him. Emphasizing the protagonist’s voyeurism and placing most of the action...

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3. Endless Quest: Chasing Sex, Lies, and Money at the Gates of Hell in Heitor Dhalia’s O cheiro do ralo

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pp. 74-87

Noir conventions such as murder and a fi nal reversal that reinstates order appear in Heitor Dhalia’s O cheiro do ralo (Drained, 2006). The film also incorporates neonoir conventions such as the dangerous dame whose crime not only goes unpunished but also leads to her self-realization.1 In O cheiro do ralo, the typical...

Part Two: Road Movies

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pp. 88-135

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4. The Paradoxical Effect of the Documentary: Walter Salles’s Central do Brasil

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pp. 91-105

As one of the most successful and financially viable of the films I discuss in this book, Walter Salles’s melodramatic Central do Brasil (Central Station, 1998) apparently follows the industrial Hollywood model, and it has earned many awards. The generic conventions of the road movie signal the transition between...

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5. Twin Piques: The Double Discourse of Carlos Sorín’s El camino de San Diego

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pp. 106-122

Carlos Sorín is an important transitional figure whose work bridges th e gap between the most representative directors of the previous generation and those associated with the New Argentine Cinema.1 Sorín departs from the idea of cinema as a revolutionary tool as well as from the industrial model that...

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6. Orphans' Solidarity: María Victoria Menis’s El cielito

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pp. 123-135

The synergy of neorealist aspects such as shooting on location with nonprofessional actors and lyrical experimental sequences naturalized as dreams is significant in Menis’s El cielito (Little Sky, 2004).1 El cielito is based on a true story. It follows the experiences of Félix (Leonardo Ramírez), a transient who...

Part Three: Drama

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pp. 137-149

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7. Sculpting Time: Inés de Oliveira Cézar’s Como pasan las horas

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pp. 139-145

Inés de Oliveira Cézar’s focus on time is a recurrent element in her corpus and in experimental film generally as it evidences the transition between films centered on action and those around an open-ended journey.1 Rather than depicting a rationale, these films trace the mystifying allure of time. Time is central...

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8. The Past Engulfs the Present: Josué Méndez’s Días de Santiago

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pp. 146-156

Following an extended stint in the Peruvian armed forces, the protagonist of Josué Méndez’s Días de Santiago (2004) returns to Lima.1 Inquiring about financial aid for veterans, Santiago Román (Pietro Sibille) initially states, “Soy ex-combatiente. He luchado por mi patria tres años” (“I’m a war veteran. I fought three years...

Part Four: Experimental Auterism

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pp. 157-174

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9. Whether or Not to End One's Life: Carlos Reygadas’s Japón

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pp. 159-167

In terms of auteurism, Reygadas’s preference for “cine sensorial . . . en que lo predominante es la emoción que se desprende de la imagen y el sonido” (a cinema of the senses . . . in which emotion emanates primarily from images and sound) (in Romero, 180) is tantamount to a self-reflexive assessment, since the overarching effect...

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10. Crime and Self-Inflicted Punishment: Carlos Reygadas’s Batalla en el cielo

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pp. 168-174

Reygadas acknowledges a displacement from the existential crisis in Japón to a social crisis in Batalla en el cielo (James, “Angels,” 31). Like its predecessors in the New Latin American Cinema, Reygadas’s Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, 2005) offers social critique in that it underscores economic inequality and rampant corruption...

Part Five: Experimental Auteurism and Intertextuality

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pp. 175-218

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11. The Miracle of Female Bonding in Patriarchal Society: Carlos Reygadas’s Stellet licht

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pp. 177-185

As the last of a triptych of films centered on the attractions and revulsions in the social interdiction of taboo, Reygadas’s Stellet licht returns to the question of guilt that he explored in Batalla en el cielo. Stellet licht could be seen as the reverse image of...

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12. Cyclical Scapegoating: Inés de Oliveira Cézar’s Extranjera

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pp. 186-195

As introduced in Como pasan las horas, Oliveira Cézar’s directorial signature lies in sculpting actions in time; however, the director goes beyond Tarkovsky’s notion of inscribing time in actions by tracing similarities between civilizations in different geographical locations and periods. Thus, in Como pasan las horas, Virginia’s pouring...

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13. The Irrevocable Nature of Curses: Inés de Oliveira Cézar’s El recuento de los daños

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pp. 196-205

By establishing connections across temporal and geographical variations, the focus on time broadens the scope of events, allowing for a certain sliding of the signifier between the texts and suggesting other implicit possibilities. In addition to the interval that results from the paratactical articulation of the film...

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14. Splintered Mirrors, Echoes, and Reverberations: Fernando Pérez Valdés’s Madrigal

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pp. 206-218

Fernando Pérez Valdés is a transitional figure whose cinematic production presents an alternative, as it is closely tied to the history of ICAIC and thus allows us to trace the movement from overtly politicized films to more subtle, experimental, ambiguous productions that aim for allegorical readings that allow for a critique...

Part Six: Experimental Pseudo-Documentary

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pp. 219-244

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15. Room With A View: Fernando Pérez Valdés’s Suite Habana

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pp. 221-231

The amazing use of montage turns Fernando Pérez Valdés’s documentary Suite Habana (2003) into one of the most experimental Latin American films of recent times. The reinscription and subversion of Bill Nichols’s observational documentary mode allows for teasing out the synergy between drama...

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16. Life is and is Not: Paz Encina’s Hamaca paraguaya

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pp. 232-244

An accurate representation of the Paraguayan ethos appears throughout the unabashedly experimental film Hamaca paraguaya (2008). Yet the film’s director, Paz Encina, somewhat paradoxically counters these arguments by stating that the film offers an accurate representation of the Paraguayan ethos...

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Conclusion: Possible Futures

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pp. 245-250

The corpus of Experimental Latin American Cinema: History and Aesthetics consists of films that were, to a greater or lesser degree, influenced by the first and second European, American, and Latin American avant-gardes. The effect of the first avant-garde (late 1920s–early 1930s) may be summed up in terms...


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pp. 251-263


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pp. 265-285


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pp. 287-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780292744165
E-ISBN-10: 0292744161
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292744158
Print-ISBN-10: 0292744153

Page Count: 306
Illustrations: 74 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013