Historias extraordinarias tells the adventures of three men known only as H (Agustin Mendilaharzu, doubling as cinematographer), X (director Mariano Llinás) and Z (Walter Jakob). These adventures come across as self-conscious constructions and journeys happening in the here and now. But though the strongest literary influences on Llinás’ fascinating screenplay are fiction writer Jorge Luis Borges and disciple Adolfo Bioy-Casares, it would be wrong to label Historias extraordinarias as literary per se: Instead, a viewer would have to stretch back to the grand serial silents of Louis Feuillade for something as ambitious as Llinás’ detailed telling of the three separate, intertwined tales, all involving men on quests in situations that force them to question who they really are. Llinás jumps between the storylines over 18 episodes, usually devoting no more than about 15 minutes at a time to any single one. The governing concept uniting the tales is how each man begins with a specific task, and then veers away from the straight-and-narrow, bringing the job’s purpose into question.
While the film was made on a low budget even by Argentine standards, the final impact is one of a big movie nearly bursting at the seams. This film also issues a riposte to recent Argentine minimalism, and specifically Carlos Sorin’s three-tale film set in Patagonia, Historias mínimas (2002). (Robert Koehler)