Review: The Delinquents
- CANNES 2023: Rodrigo Moreno’s criminally good crime story in three acts shows that “cinema is not really dead”
In The Delinquents [+see also:
interview: Rodrigo Moreno
film profile], the new film by Argentinian director Rodrigo Moreno, which screened as part of the Un Certain Regard line-up at the Cannes Film Festival, Morán (Daniel Eliás), a disillusioned banker from Buenos Aires, comes up with a sophisticated plan to rob the bank he is employed at – but to only steal just enough money to be able to retire comfortably. His friend and colleague Román (Esteban Bigliardi) is dragged into it by Morán.
Morán carries out the actual robbery, and then hands himself over to the police, knowing that he will spend three years in prison and then finally be free for life. Román, who is married to Flor (Gabriela Saidon), takes on the task of keeping the money hidden until Morán’s release and tries not to get caught himself. The Delinquents starts with a crime, but the crime is not at the centre of the story. At its core, the film is about the midlife crises of two middle-aged bank employees, who crave freedom, adventure and creativity.
The comedy-drama in three acts is almost three hours long. This was a risky choice for Moreno – it is not an easy undertaking to keep the audience captivated by a movie for such a long time – but it worked out. The plot progresses slowly but surely, and in a balanced way. In many of the quieter and slower moments, the play with light and shadow in the often static, but interestingly framed, shots is superb – cinematographers Inés Duacastella and Alejo Maglio did an excellent job in this regard. The lighting seems to reflect the different characters of Morán and Román, and how differently they are dealing with their situation. It brings to mind the light work in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lola.
At different times in the story, both Román and Morán fall for the same woman, Norma (Margarita Molfino), who lives a quiet life in the countryside and makes films with a group of friends. Both protagonists also fall in love with Norma’s way of life and are drawn to the craft of filmmaking. In one scene, Norma’s friends discuss film and conclude: “Cinema, as it once was, is dead.” The Delinquents is an ode to the art of filmmaking, and Moreno proves that it is still alive. This part of the movie betrays the fact that Moreno might have drawn some inspiration from New German Cinema (Fassbinder, Herzog, Schlöndorff…), the motto of which was: “The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema.”
Not only is the lighting full of contrasts, but such disparities in general are an important element of this film: the contrast between the city of Buenos Aires and the Sierras de Córdoba, between bankers and artists, and between Morán and Román. Further to this, actor Germán De Silva plays two roles: bank director Del Toro and the gangster Garrincha, who terrorises Morán in prison – and he does it so well that one forgets that they are played by the same actor.
By making an artistically ambitious and socially critical film, Moreno resurrects the old cinema, giving it his own, new twist. There are a few plot holes along the way, and the ending is kept quite open (are they going to fight over the woman? Is there going to be a face-off in the Argentinian mountains now that Morán has been released from prison? Why does Morán get away with just a three-year sentence?). But if you can sit down for three hours, it is worth watching The Delinquents on the big screen.
The Delinquents is an Argentinian-Brazilian-Chilean-Luxembourgish co-production staged by Wanka Cine, Rizoma Films and Jaque Content, and co-produced by Les Films Fauves, Jirafa Films and Punta Colorada de Cinema. Magnolia International represents the worldwide rights to the film.
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