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VENICE 2022 Orizzonti

Review: Trenque Lauquen


- VENICE 2022: Argentinian director Laura Citarella steps up to the festival big leagues with this four-hour tale, following an academic researcher who decides to become a Sherlock Holmes-like gumshoe

Review: Trenque Lauquen
Laura Paredes in Trenque Lauquen

“I consider my kind of filmmaking like writing a novel,” Lav Diaz told us at the Venice Film Festival (see the interview). “The characters I create are fleshed out, and we see them living in the film.” And in a week where we lost such a monumental figure as Jean-Luc Godard, we’re reminded of how his prime cinematic movement, the Nouvelle Vague, has been memorialised as a “cinema haunted by writing”. When confronting Laura Citarella’s exciting new work Trenque Lauquen [+see also:
interview: Laura Citarella
film profile
, a relevant query comes to mind: wouldn’t it be more appropriate to appraise and understand it as a visualised novel, where its potential limitations as a piece of cinema – and one for conventional, commercial exposure at that – are immaterial? We need to think of this film, similar to Diaz now, and like Manoel de Oliveira and Raúl Ruiz once upon a time, as a hybrid work, by a filmmaker who contradictorily doesn’t see any distinction between shooting on a digital camera and dipping a quill in ink. And whilst you may require a cool million or several to mount a feature-film production, you need nada, or just a very focused mind, to potentially write your own Moby Dick. Citarella and also Diaz, with their low budgets and flexible shooting schedules, are really operating in the latter lane.

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Premiering in Venice’s Orizzonti section, after which it will head to the New York Film Festival’s prestigious main slate selection, Trenque Lauquen is a breakthrough work for Citarella that will bring her to further international attention, following her key role in the influential Argentinian filmmaking collective El Pampero Cine, where she produced Mariano Llinás’s La Flor and Extraordinary Stories. Whilst its four-hour-and-ten-minute length will pose scheduling challenges for festival attendees and curious parties elsewhere, it could and should become something like a hot-ticket or event film for those with adventurous tastes. But lest this seem overly praiseworthy, it is not perfect: not every moment, particularly in the second part, is as compelling and gripping as the last, yet this fits the resigned and phlegmatic note the film concludes on.

Its key plot details mirror and refract like dull reflections on a frogspawn-strewn lake – a melting, shapeshifting presence, not geometric fragmentation. Our heroine Laura (Laura Paredes, who’s almost like Argentinian indie film’s Meryl Streep) has several professional positions: she is, deep breath, a fieldworker in the government’s Department of Transport, specialising in plant biology; a stringer for a BBC Radio 4-style arts radio show, broadcasting on the lives of various overlooked, radical women; and an incumbent university academic, with her boyfriend Rafael (Rafael Spregelburd) helping her gain a full-time position. It’s enough to make anyone's concentration and focus fray, and lead them to start devising, in the words of the great and pretentious art-rock band Radiohead, “how to disappear completely”.

Her mind is distracted by various overlapping mysteries of absence: an array of erotic love letters discovered between the pages of a bulk book donation to the Trenque Lauquen university library; a rare and maybe hallucinogenic-if-eaten plant she’s required to taxonomise for work; and a potential real-life Loch Ness Monster-esque discovery within the lake at the centre of the locale. Her official partner Rafael and her lover and confidant Chicha (Ezequiel Pierri) go out on their own clue-strewn jolly to recover her, their tense journey into no man’s land told in a dozen Tarantino-evoking, timeline-scrambled chapters.

You will know if you will want to plough on with Trenque Lauquen within its opening moments. It is not for everyone, but some people – the right audience – are just going to love this film. It should tour libraries, used-book stores and squat art spaces, as well as cinematheques.

Trenque Lauquen is a co-production between Argentina and Germany, staged by El Pampero Cine and Grandfilm. Its world sales have been entrusted to Luxbox.

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Photogallery 08/09/2022: Venice 2022 - Trenque Lauquen

22 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Laura Citarella, Alberto Barbera, Laura Paredes, Ezequiel Pierri, Lucia Pierri, Rafael Spregelburd
© 2022 Fabrizio de Gennaro & Dario Caruso for Cineuropa -,,, Dario Caruso

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