The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, February 10-16

5-Los-tallos-amargos copyThe Bitter Stems (1956)
Directed by Fernando Ayala
A wave of noir films emerged in Argentina following the Second World War whose studies of human weakness were made parallel to their American peers. These films realized around the time of Juan Perón’s first Presidential term were often based on American and European source materials, such as Cornell Woolrich and Richard Wright’s writings and Fritz Lang’s film M. The Bitter Stems, by contrast, was based upon Argentine journalist-turned-crime writer Adolfo Jasca’s 1955 novel. Its protagonist is Alfredo Gaspar (played by sweaty, paranoia-imbued Carlos Cores), a thirty-two year-old Buenos Aires-based journalist whose tormented mind rushes backwards and forwards as he rides a train with his business partner Paar Liudas (disquietingly charming Vassili Lambrinos). Shadow-soaked flashbacks present the unsettled Argentine and the Hungarian expat banding together to found a journalism correspondence school with the intention of swindling its students; Paar speaks of his desire to bring his family over from shattered Europe, and Alfredo comes to wonder if his new associate is swindling him as well. Chilean cinematographer Ricardo Younis moves his camera as though illuminating corners of the weak-willed Alfredo’s head, including the nightmares and hallucinations that propel him and Paar towards a shared dark fate. Aaron Cutler (February 11, 4pm; February 14, 4:45pm at MoMA’s “Death is My Dance Partner: Film Noir in Postwar Argentina”; February 11 screening of new 35mm restoration introduced by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir foundation and Argentinian cinema historian Fernando Martín Peña)

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