Saturday, November 25, 2006

Movie: El Aura (U.S. 2006)

As usual, I spent much of the Thanksgiving holiday watching movies. Some good, at least one lousy. Don’t expect to hear about that one; I’ve reached a point with this site where I only feel like talking about my enthusiasms. Apparently an attribute I share with Chuck Klosterman. (And the similarities don’t end there. Like Chuck, I sleep late, write fast and watch sports documentaries. Does this mean that I, too, am the voice of a generation?)

I don’t have a complex formula for figuring out what I like. There are no set criteria of the kind Jeffrey Wells describes. A movie simply resonates with me. The truly special ones provoke a feeling that’s the opposite of déjà vu: you’ve never been here before, but already you know that you will be again.

Normally by this point in the year I’ve seen at least one movie I can clutch to my breast and call my very own. Not so in 2006. I’ve seen plenty to like, but not much to love. And then came El Aura, the second and sadly final film from Fabián Bielinsky, who died of a heart attack earlier this year at 47. I had high expectations for this movie; Bielinsky’s debut, the con man caper Nine Queens, is a personal favorite. El Aura only makes it plain what a huge talent was lost.

The protagonist (Queens star Ricardo Darin) is an Argentinean taxidermist who suffers from epilepsy; the title is his word for the not unwelcome feeling that suffuses him before a seizure. He’s detached from life and obsessed with crime. During a hunting trip, he accidentally kills a man – only to discover his victim was a professional thief whose plans for a heist are already in motion. The taxidermist can step into his role and live out the life he’s always dreamed of. Think of it as Richard Stark meets Oliver Sacks.

Put simply, I love everything about this movie. Two scenes in particular stand out. One, a breathtaking sequence in which Darin narrates how he would rob a museum, his fantasy playing out around him as he describes it, proves Bielinsky was a born entertainer. The other, a series of cuts moving Darin from his empty apartment to the Patagonian countryside, reveals him to be a born filmmaker.

The strange thing is that I watched El Aura on TV. It’s part of IFC Films’ First Take, meaning it’s available via cable services on demand as it slowly makes its way around the country theatrically. It’s not slated to open in Seattle until March 2007, and I wasn’t about to wait. Odds are you could watch the movie in the comfort of your own home right now. Go ahead. You won’t spend a better $5.99 this holiday season.