Adolfo Aristarain: emotion, threats, the art of directing and why he hates music in movies

Adolfo Aristarain in the garden of the DAC moments before participating in the dialogue with Juan Bautista Stagnaro (Gustavo Gavotti)

The lights in the room go out and the screen shows July of Grace Y Fernanda Mistralboth very young. He, with slicked-back black hair and a period mustache; she, beautiful, simply beautiful. Her blond hair falls like a drawing, she wears light and elegant clothes, her lips with just a hint of color. She wants to show herself strong, but she doesn’t know how. It’s the reunion scene. They are in a bar —he drinks a cognac, she a cold drink— and the dialogue is charged with recriminations and promises in a crescendo of the tension that breaks the sentences while the camera closes the shots on the faces. The film advances, but a problem with the projector cuts the video a couple of seconds early and the room goes completely dark as her and his voices are heard, reaching the end in perfect resolution. The lights come on and the audience, still shocked, falls silent, expectant: they forget to applaud.

They just saw a snippet of the lion’s sharethe first film of Adolfo Aristarainwho now settles on stage to participate in “An open conversation about the art of directing” with John Baptist Stagnaro. A few months ago, Aristarain published the craft of cinema, a memoir in which he included film scripts, notes, and reflections on his homework. There he wrote that Serge Leone he was a blackmailer who had lost respect for him and who charles bronson He was “the world’s biggest son of a bitch.” However, today, here at the headquarters of Argentine Film Directors (DAC)perhaps correctly, only he and his work are discussed: payback time, Last days of the victim, A place in the world, Martin (Ache), Romeetc.

Aristarain points to the screen and says that he doesn’t like to watch his movies: “In general, I can think of everything I could have done differently. And the first thing that appears to me, which is a hobby of mine, is that i hate music in movies. Since Martin (Ache) henceforth they are peeled. That thing about the little guitar —in the scene with De Grazia and Mistral there is a slight strumming in the background— I don’t do it anymore”.

Adolfo Aristarain and Juan Bautista Stagnaro in the DAC room (Gustavo Gavotti)
Adolfo Aristarain and Juan Bautista Stagnaro in the DAC room (Gustavo Gavotti)

The Incredible Adventures of Mr. Scissors

The second scene is, again, from the lion’s share: the also very young Ulysses Dumont Y Julio Chavez They escape by jumping from the terraces with a bag full of money, while a third party shoots the police. The police are never seen, but they are a real presence through the sirens and gunshots. This, which could have been an aesthetic or narrative decision, was, however, a way to deal with censorship. the part of the lion It is from 1978, during the military dictatorship, and it was forbidden to show uniformed men since they had appeared in a movie isabel sarli. The reason was ridiculous: in that film, Sarli was taller than the actor playing the policeman and Miguel Paulino Tato he had said that this undermines the Force, so he imposed that there would be no agents in any of them.

“The conditions of the censorship were that there were no police, no drugs, no nudity, and the jets weren’t too cute,” says Aristarain. But four years after the lion’s share checked almost all the boxes with Last days of the victim. With an extra difficulty: the protagonist was Federico Lupi, an actor who had been suffering persecution from the repressive state. “We had to delay the film because of him, because they didn’t give him the green light to film,” explains Aristarain.

And yet, they managed to jump the fence with a risky move: Hector Oliverathe producer of Last days, sent it to the censor body three days before the premiere, already with the advertisements on the street. The film was approved, but the problem came later: “There were bomb threats and calls to my house and to Olivera’s,” says Aristarain, who recalls the complaint in a magazine in which they said that worried about the mosquito on necklines, they they had seen the elephant of ideologies. “The movie blew up the first day. If it hadn’t been a success, I don’t know what would have happened,” he says.

The meeting could be followed live from the DAC Instagram account (Gustavo Gavotti)
The meeting could be followed live from the DAC Instagram account (Gustavo Gavotti)

think of three

“Luppi was your…” Stagnaro pretended to ask after showing a scene from Common Places, in which they were Luppi, Maria Fiorentino Y Arturo Puig.

“It was neither my alter ego nor a fetish,” Aristarain replied dryly. He was a very good actor who was free when I called him. In fact, he almost missed A place in the world. He arrived a day late, because he had come from doing kill grandpa.

A place in the world it is one of the highest peaks if not the highest in Aristarain. Released in 1992, in addition to Luppithey act Cecilia Roth, Joseph Sacristan Y Eleanor Benedetto. The film that was made with very little money and with a cooperative format between all those involved, received the Goyathe gold shell of San Sebastián and various Silver Condorand was selected to compete for the oscars although, later, in the midst of a scandal, she was withdrawn and participated instead The dark side of the Heartof Eliseo Subiela.

Stagnaro showed several scenes. All great, but one of them, where the four characters eat at the house of Ana (Roth) and Mario (Luppi) and where Ernesto (Gaston Batyi), who is the son of both, is superlative. Because of the way they move, because of the number of shots, because of how the dialogues and the looks come in, because of how at one point the image stays stuck for five, six, seven seconds with Cecilia Roth —”she was splendid, capable to make even a stone fall in love”-, it seems filmed by an alien. It is an overflow of mastery.

"It was necessary to set up a cooperative to film A place in the world"said Aristarain (Gustavo Gavotti)
“It was necessary to set up a cooperative to film A place in the world”, said Aristarain (Gustavo Gavotti)

How do you find fluidity with that huge amount of cuts? Stagnaro asked.

—I am very aware of the fluidity of the shots, of continuity. Since I was an assistant for many years, I have already considered it.

Do you rehearse before?

—I rehearse first with the actors. I let them loose, let them move as they want, and there I am marking them. In a very long scene I mark some things for them, but I leave them to see what appears. Of course, with this way of working you run into the problem of making many more shots.

Do you follow the book?

—If I can, yes, but what I follow, which is very complicated, is what the Americans say, that movies are thought of in threes: the shot that precedes, the one that you are going to film and the one that follows.


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Adolfo Aristarain: emotion, threats, the art of directing and why he hates music in movies