' ' Cinema Romantico: Carancho

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


It's often so rewarding to be dropped directly into the middle of a movie world of which you know nothing. Yes, even if that world is on the non-well-intentioned streets of Argentina where, as a few opening titles inform us, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death, thereby prompting ambulance chasing lawyers of un-prestigious firms to skulk around hospitals like vultures (which - hey! - is what "carancho" means in Spanish) in the hopes of winning clients to win cases to grab cash to make a living.

Our Vulture Surrogate is Sosa (Ricardo Darín), a lawyer without a license, who nevertheless finagles unsuspecting and injured saps for his unsympathetic boss. Mired in a dead-end he perhaps projects salvation onto the angelic young doctor Luján (Martina Gusman). Ah, but this angel has yet to earn her wings on account of a heroin addiction she sometimes feeds in bathroom stalls in the middle of shifts which leaves her mistake-prone and strapped for money and leading her to take extra ambulance shifts to make ends meet. And it is on a fateful ambulance shift she meets Sosa who takes a shine and unsubtly worms his way into her existence.

Romance beckons until Sosa, ignoring the standard cinematic rule that stipulates Your-Last-Job-Never-Ends-Well goes through nefarious means to set up a phony traffic accident with an actual ambulance driver in on the scheme only to have it fall apart when the "victim" dies. It worsens because Luján had taken a shift last-minute and, alas, is at the scene of the crime. And there is a breathtaking moment when the boss of Sosa's boss summons him back into the hospital after Luján has just walked away from him forever (but not, you know, forever) when the film fades to black for just a couple seconds, suggesting that even though an hour or more is left in the film and Sosa has many more mean streets to cross, he is already done for.

"Carancho" (2010) is less twisty and turny than it is a bullet train, barreling toward the finish line and investing us in the outcome even if its main characters are not traditionally likable. Little of their past is revealed. Come to think of it, little of their present is revealed either and little of their future is glimpsed. So often our ultimate goal seems to be to somehow live in the moment, but the plights of Sosa and Luján suggest the moment is not all it's cracked up to be. They yearn for anything but the moment and, thus, when an opportunity presents itself to do the so-called right thing, they take it, perhaps in the hope that fate will finally shine down upon them and square their sins. Alas. The final scene might seem arbitrary but I would venture it's more an illustration of them finally hitting "bankrupt" on the Wheel of Fortune.

Not for nothing are Argentina's endless hit & runs at the center of "Carancho." In the end, like any great noir anti-hero, Sosa and Luján can't outrun fate.

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