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Foreign Comedy - Argentina - Felicidades / Merry Christmas

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Luis Machin, Gaston Pauls, Silke, Marcello Mazzarello
Written and Directed by Lucho Bender
Argentina 2000
Spanish with English subtitles
100 minutes
Facets Multimedia 2005

Felicidades director Lucho Bender (1957 - 2004) profits from the good will prevalent on Christmas Eve in Buenos Aires  in this portrait of a bunch of very rich characters, their tangential encounters, and the effects these encounters have on them.  Felicidades was Argentina's official entry at the 2000 Academy Awards in the foreign film category.

The sordid ambiance of the downtown shacks gives this story an almost grotesque tone in its representation of an every day yet decadent society. The characters in Felicidades include a pierrot-like comedian, a doctor unwilling to compromise with other people's pain, a woman rejected by her lover, a lover who pines for her unsuccessfully, and a deeply philosophical handicapped beggar. All this in a perfectly woven plot that makes for a very human movie that invites us to contemplate our nature.

Writer and director Lucho Bender almost succeeds with Felicidades. He very wisely starts his story with a satiric portrait that begins with the irony of a Bar Mitzvah celebrated on Christmas Eve. From there, we are slowly introduced to each and every one of his delicious characters as their real personalities, weaknesses, and virtues are revealed in front of our eyes. This cinematographic dish spiced by alternate humorous and touching moments include the encounter between the doctor and the handicapped Marcelo Mazzarello who offers us an acting masterpiece from his wheelchair , and a script that generously gives the viewer  a superb intertextuality with Saint-Éxupéry's The Little Prince.

Felicidades is a very entertaining and interesting movie until Bender faces the difficult challenge of bringing closure to his story(ies). He becomes a juggler buried by the fall of the objects he had so wonderfully managed to play with: From the bottom of the screen emerge soap-opera-like melodramatic geysers of common place observations and we end up watching the fall of something that could have been a masterpiece but is defeated by Bender taking the easy road of tackiness. Pity.

Dr Mario Humberto Zamora Del Cueto PhD.



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