Near the provincial town of San Julian, three vibrant characters undertake seemingly mundane journeys that turn out to be subtly life changing. A lonely, fastidious traveling salesman quests for the perfect cream cake to win the widow of his dreams. A grizzly grandfather hitchhikes to town to find his forgotten lost dog and seek forgiveness. A poor young mother hopes to win the grand prize–a microprocessor–as a contestant on a TV game show. In the end, the three will get more or less what they set out for, but it will come to them in ways that they never expected.
The most indelible image that lingers from the Argentine film “Intimate Stories” is the picture of an 80-year-old man with a cane shuffling along the road at sunrise in the desolate plains of Patagonia. The landscape is bare. The only hints of color are in the early morning sky. The road seems to stretch into nothingness.
Almost every frame of this modest gem of a movie, directed by Carlos Sorin from a screenplay by Pablo Solarz, conveys the emptiness of the environment in which three interwoven vignettes unfold. “Intimate Stories” (originally titled “Minimal Stories”) is Mr. Sorin’s first film since his rarely seen 1989 flop, “Eversmile, New Jersey.” Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a dentist touring Patagonia on a motorcycle, it disappeared at virtually the moment it was released.
In “Intimate Stories,” as the camera scans a wasteland nearly devoid of material things, the eye fastens on whatever is available; the most humble, weather-beaten objects become precious signs of life. The movie conveys starkly and unemotionally what it really feels like to live in a wilderness with next to nothing. For characters who wouldn’t even understand the concept of upward mobility, this is the way life is.
The old man, Don Justo (Antonio Benedictis), who takes to the road from his native village of Fitz Roy, where his family runs a grocery store, is one of three travelers bound for the provincial capital of San Julián. The 200-mile journey promises redemption to one, riches to another and true love to a third.
Don Justo, having heard that his beloved dog, Badface, which ran off three years earlier, has been seen in a neighboring village, plans to hitchhike the route in hopes of retrieving the animal. Half blind and on the verge of senility, he is haunted by a question: do dogs know the difference between right and wrong? Only at the end of the movie do we learn his guilty secret, which he believes may have driven Badface away.
The second traveler, María (Javiera Bravo), is a single mother who journeys with her baby to San Julián to compete on what looks like the world’s tackiest game show, “Multicolored Casino.” The contestants spin a roulette wheel and throw out numbers attached to prizes. The top prize is a food processor, an item of dubious value to María since her shack in Fitz Roy has no electricity.
The most sophisticated itinerant, Roberto (Javier Lombardo), is a 40-year-old traveling salesman peddling so-called slimming plasters made in Sweden that his aggressive sales pitch promises will produce rapid weight loss. How they are applied and how they will accomplish their little miracles are never explained.
Roberto totes with him an elaborate birthday cake, patched like a soccer ball, which he plans to give to Rene, a child he’s never met of a female client he fancies. But midway in the journey, it occurs to him that Rene could as easily be a girl as a boy.
He frantically casts about for a cake decorator, and finds a stranger who attaches little blue feet to it that make it resemble a turtle.
The movie’s satirical touches are so affectionate that you never feel its creators are looking down on characters whose modest quests loom as such potentially life-changing adventures. To the contrary, the vision of simple people helping one another expresses an essential humanity that doesn’t feel forced or sentimental.
1.14GB | 1h 31mn | 835×470 | mkv