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SUDDENLY (Tan de Repente)

By Rich Cline | May 23, 2003

With heavy echoes of Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger than Paradise,” Argentine director Diego Lerman starts this little film as a tense thriller then settles into a gently comic examination of people and relationships. Marcia (Tatiana Saphir) is a full-figured shop clerk who’s stalked by a pair of skinny lesbian bikers who call themselves Lenin and Mao (Veronica Hassan and Carla Crespo). They kidnap her and hit the road in a stolen car, and for awhile we wonder what might happen next. But events quickly turn comic as they head off to visit Lenin’s Aunt Blanca (Beatriz Thibaudin), a hilarious old lady who shares her home with the hapless Felipe (Marcos Ferrante) and the uptight Delia (Maria Merlino). As all of these characters play a sort of chess game of mistrust and exploration, the film merely watches, laughs at them and identifies with their feelings.
This isn’t a straight-on comedy by a long shot. It’s a quirky character study that will make everyone in the audience laugh at different places, mostly at the way the people on screen react to each other. The film’s charm rests in the fact that nobody behaves the way you expect them to. Liaisons form and break up, then regroup and settle down in unexpected ways.
Lerman’s film is perhaps a bit too subtle for general audiences, especially after the edgy promise of the opening sequence when we think we’re heading for a “Thelma & Louise” type road movie. The rest of the film seems rambling and pointless by comparison. But the black and white cinematography is beautiful and revelatory, letting the cast toy with each situation while tantalizingly capturing the scenes from telling angles. In the end nothing much happens. And everything in the world happens as well. All of a sudden, when the characters (and we) least expect it.

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