by Marta Bałaga
- The opening film of Sitges’ Orbita section, directed by Argentinian helmer Mariano Cohn, proves that cars are indeed killing us
In what must be the oddest possible follow-up to the award-friendly The Distinguished Citizen [+see also:
film profile], Argentinian director Mariano Cohn ventures out on his own with his regular collaborator, Gastón Duprat, sitting it out while still serving as a co-writer and producer. Why is it the oddest follow-up? Because the fabulous 4x4 [+see also:
film profile], chosen as the opening title of the Orbita section of the Sitges Film Festival, proves that all you need to make a movie is not a girl and a gun, but a jerk and a car. One more thing that Godard got all wrong, apparently.
Not just any car, though, but a luxurious SUV parked somewhere in Buenos Aires and minding its own business, until a passing thief (The Clan [+see also:
film profile]’s Peter Lanzani, demonstrating his limitless dedication to the craft here) decides to break into it, nicking as much as he can before deciding to pee in the vehicle he is robbing. Young people today, eh? It’s a statement of sorts, one assumes. Only he then finds out, the poor sap, that while it was easy to get in, it’s much harder to get out. Impossible, actually. And the fun is just about to begin.
Lots of it, too, as one of the reasons why Cohn’s film works so well is because there are few things as entertaining as witnessing humans being dumb, with this particular specimen trying in vain to punch his way out and disassembling the vehicle, which gradually reveals itself to be a bona fide trap, in many senses of the word. Not as claustrophobic as the likes of Buried [+see also:
interview: Rodrigo Cortés
film profile], which saw Ryan Reynolds wake up in a wooden coffin, the struggle in 4x4 is palpable anyway – even though the panic-stricken Ciro is still able to see the world through the windows, calmly going about its business with the birds chirping away and nobody giving a damn. Quickly disposing of the only serious obstacle in his way (Ciro’s battery dies, you see), Cohn proceeds to have a ball, as the smug thief will soon need to take that stolen radio out of his backpack, and the first song that comes up already seems to be making fun of his predicament. Fast and furious? Try slow and desperate. And hungry.
As things get more complicated, with the introduction of a proper, although a tad Jigsaw-like, villain (Dady Brieva) who – let me whisper this quietly – actually seems to make some sense, a fun little idea turns into a proper social commentary, but one that makes it incredibly hard to take sides. Especially after the main troublemaker partly redeems himself after deciding not to murder a friendly cricket, which has been keeping him company throughout the ordeal. With the first proper dialogues kicking in no sooner than 15 minutes in, it’s smart, unpretentious filmmaking at its purest, and it’s just a pity that the ending doesn’t quite stick to the compact form. Another small triumph for Cohn, then – perhaps not all that surprising, given his solid track record, but it’s certainly a tantalising, brand-new direction. If only we could add that no car was harmed during the making of this film.
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