Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Two Films About Journeys: Kumiko and Jauja

April 24, 2015


Recently I saw two films, each with a Herzogian story about a person who undertakes an ill-advised journey.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter directed and co-written by David Zellner, is, I’m told, based on a Japanese urban legend. Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) has a dreary job as a personal assistant to a Tokyo businessman. Yearning to escape from her humdrum life, she dreams of becoming a treasure hunter. She finds an old VHS tape of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, and she becomes convinced that it tells a true story. She believes that the money buried by one of the characters is lying in a field somewhere in Minnesota. She steals her boss’s credit card and uses it to purchase a plane ticket to Minneapolis. From there, she sets out for Fargo, convinced that she will somehow find the field she saw in the film. Along the way, she meets a number of different people who try to help her.

This film’s “happy” ending is not quite ironic and not quite cynical. Zellner is clearly aiming for a fairy tale effect here. He succeeds in this largely because of Kikuchi’s convincing and moving performance.


The trailer for Jauja gave me high hopes, but I found the film itself disappointing.

The film is set in Argentina in the 19th century. The Argentine government is waging a genocidal war against the indigenous people of Patagonia. Gunnar (Viggo Mortenson) is a Danish doctor who has been hired by the Argentine army. He has brought his daughter, Ingeborg (Viilbjørk Malling Agger), from Denmark with him. When Ingeborg runs off into the desert with a soldier, Gunnar goes in pursuit of them. He finds the soldier murdered. While he is searching the area, an Indian steals his horse, so Gunnar is forced to continue his search on foot. He comes across an old woman who lives by herself in the desert.

Jauja‘s early scenes have a stark beauty and simplicity about them that reminds one of Herzog’s films. However, it suddenly turns into a Bergmannesque fantasy about a spooky old woman living in a cave. Like Kumiko, this film aims for a fairy tale effect, but it merely ends up being opaque. I found this disappointing, because I really wanted to see Gunnar’s quest lead to something. Instead, we have what feels like two different films stuck together. In addition, Jauja touches upon the racist attitude of the whites towards the Indians, but it doesn’t really have anything to say about this. It’s just a perplexing and unsatisfying work.

Pope Francis

March 14, 2013

The newly elected Pope Francis I waves to the crowds from St Peter's basilica.

The college of cardinals has selected a new pope. He is an Argentinian named Jorge Bergoglio, but he will rule under the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. The Guradian reports:

    Inside the Sistine Chapel after the final vote was cast, the most junior of the cardinals, James Harvey, a former prefect of the papal household, called in the secretary of the college of cardinals, Monsignor Lorenzo Baldisseri, and the master of papal liturgical ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, to witness the new pope’s acceptance of one of the most daunting jobs on Earth.

Daunting? Really? I imagine being a coal miner would be a daunting job, as would being a factory worker at Foxconn. But being Pope? You mostly just have to wear funny clothes and make reactionary statements. Sounds like a sweet gig to me. The Guardian also reports:

    No indication of how or why the new pope was chosen was expected to emerge. On Tuesday, before the start of the conclave, the cardinal-electors took an oath of secrecy, as had those Vatican employees and officials involved in the election.

    Additional precautions included a sweep of the Sistine Chapel to ensure that no listening devices had been planted inside and the use of electronic jamming techniques.

If history teaches us one thing, it’s that people who obsess over secrecy are usually up to no good. And when one looks into the background of this man, Bergoglio, one can see that he has good reasons for secrecy. According to another article in the Guardian:

    The main charge against Bergoglio involves the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests, Orland Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken by Navy officers in May 1976 and held under inhumane conditions for the missionary work they conducted in the country’s slums, a politically risky activity at the time.

    His chief accuser is journalist Horacio Verbitsky, the author of a book on the church called “El Silencio” (“The Silence”), which claims that Bergoglio withdrew his order’s protection from the two priests, effectively giving the military a green light for their abduction.

Actually, the election of Bergoglio makes perfect sense to me. With the church besieged by accusations of money laundering and child abuse, who better to have as Pope than a criminal?

Ratzinger – er, I mean Pope Benedict XVI – got a lot of grief for having been a member of the Hitler Youth as a child. In my view, that’s negated by the fact that he refused to serve in the German army during World War II. But what are we to make of a man who aided and abetted a murderous regime? And what should we make of a church that promotes such a man to its highest position?