By Admin | January 26, 2005

Argentina has hit Sundance’s dramatic world cinema competition big this year, and “Palermo Hollywood” is one of two impressive features. The film is a Scorsese-inspired tour of the country’s poor economic conditions, which “Live-in Maid” addresses in an entirely different manner, and the culture of crime that has become part of the characters’ identity. It has the same frenetic visual ambition—if not quite the same level of success—of another South American success, City of God from Brazil. It thrusts the audience into the end of the story as a young man races through the street on a motorcycle, has an accident and eventually ends up in a nice-looking house with a gun to another man’s head.

While it doesn’t always live up to its promise, director Eduardo Pinto tries an ambitious range of techniques as he uses handheld cameras to tell the story of two friends from different classes who live in the underworld of Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Palermo Viejo, which is known for its restaurants and nightclubs, which are more popular to outsiders trying to be hip than to the neighborhood’s residents who can’t afford them.

The film centers around the frivolous criminals Pablo (Matias Desiderio) and Mario (Brian Maya, who also co-wrote the screenplay), who spend more time clubbing and hanging out on the street corner with their friends than looting buildings. In the film they’re often together as close friends, but their lives, as the opening flash-forward suggests, are destined to separate. Pablo grew up in a poor family, is an irresponsible father and an unreliable husband. Mario, known as “The Russian,” is a hood popular for always being generous with his money—because he actually has plenty. His family is wealthy and his crime plays as a rebellion against his father rather than a source of income. Whatever bond they have, Mario’s wealth his father’s connections eternally separate him from his friend. Pablo is stuck there, Mario is there on a lark.

Pinto paints a series of interesting relationships through a haze of drugs, partying, sex and crime. Some sequences become a little more self-indulgent than needed, but his ambition is admirable. Unfortunately, the final shots feel a bit over-the-top and exchange honesty for a cheap moral. But before it gets there, Palermo Hollywood is an interesting ride.

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