What To Drink While Watching El secreto de sus ojos / The Secret in Their Eyes

What to drink while watching El secreto de sus ojos / The Secret in Their Eyes

I am no fan of Argentinean cinema. Maybe it’s just the films I’ve happened to see, but the impression I have always had is that in Argentinean films, characters just moan at each other about how rotten their lives have turned out; there are always tiresome references to football, Freud and local politics, and an overwhelming sort of maudlin nostalgia.

There are certain words used to describe film genres that I steer clear of. Terms such as “blockbuster”, “action” and “thriller” are anathema to me.

So when I see the expression “Argentinean thriller”, I tend to head for the door. But a few weeks ago, I stayed where I was and watched El secreto de sus ojos and didn’t regret it. It was only after I’d seen it that I learned that this film picked up an Oscar recently, and then I nodded to myself, commending the Academy on their choice.

Like most Argentinean films, it stars Ricardo Darín. He has managed to appear in just about every Argentinean film I have seen and, much though I am able to recognise his talent, it gets a tad boring to see him so often. Doesn’t he have a home to go to somewhere?

Darín plays the part of Espósito, a prosecutor or something (I have no idea of the Argentinean legal system – in fact, I was even surprised they had one) who digs up an old case and does his own investigations alongside his buddy Sandoval, brilliantly played by one Guillermo Francella, who I don’t recall having seen before. Of course, there’s a love interest in this movie – Espósito has a crush on his boss, Irene, played by Soledad Villamil. What he sees in her, God only knows.

The investigations are hampered by politicians who try to cover up the activities of the former dictatorship. Events occur irregularly and there are plenty of opportunities for characters to sit around moaning about how rotten their lives have turned out but they do actually get off their backsides quite often, in fact, and there is enough action in the film but thankfully not enough to merit the consideration of an “action movie”. It has its funny moments, that kind of rueful, ironic humour which we associate with our cousins from Buenos Aires, even when they are obsessed with football and Freud.

There is one surprising and spectacular scene when a suspect is chased all over a football stadium, right onto the pitch in the middle of a match, which had me gaping in admiration. It was totally credible, too, unlike most chases we see in films, where people pull down wardrobes with one hand to stop their pursuers, workers appear from nowhere carrying huge plates of glass, handcarts invariably containing neatly piled apples and water melons go flying, bla bla bla. Director Juan José Campanella has been around for a while, and done a lot of television in the US, so he obviously knew what clichés to avoid.

Other clichés that he avoided include mate and the word boludo. Yerba mate is another thing that all Argentineans are addicted to, as well as football and Freud. At its best, it tastes like badly-made tea. It is a charmless thing, only appreciated by those who think Soledad Villamil is attractive. Boludo is a catch-all swear word that Argentineans use all the time when they’re talking about football and Freud and drinking mate. The fact that mate and boludo hardly get a mention in the film definitely enhanced it for me.

You might suppose that mate would be a good beverage to wash this film down with. Well, no, I can’t say that it would be. I liked the scenes where the characters drank coffee in this film, as though they were really tasting it. I have no idea what Argentinean coffee tastes like – they don’t grow it there, do they? My ignorance on this matter is alarming. It would be tempting to drink Brazilian, seeing as how it’s, like, next door, just on the other side of the Iguazú, but I think they would be making a crushing mistake…

I know, I know, Brazilian coffee is fine, yes, OK, I know. But surely nothing can compare to Colombian coffee.

Why anybody in the whole world would even entertain a fleeting possibility of imbibing any coffee other than Colombian Arabica is beyond me.

So let’s let bygones be bygones, put it all behind us, get over our prejudices, forget our reckless generalisations and our petty xenophobic comments, and raise our coffee cups to El secreto de sus ojos.

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