leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Argentine writer-director Fabian Bielinsky's second and last feature — he died shortly after completing it, aged 47 — is an existential thriller about an epileptic taxidermist with dreams of pulling off the perfect crime. Alienated and alone since his wife left him, Espinosa (Ricardo Darin) is delivering a stuffed fox to a Buenos Aires museum when he runs into colleague Sontag (Alejandro Awada), who persuades Espinosa to join him for a weekend hunting trip in the Patagonian forests — in truth, it's more a thinly veiled challenge than an invitation. Espinosa eventually agrees, and the trip gets off to a bad start: They arrive to find the hotel booked solid. Sontag never makes reservations, and it happens that this weekend a local casino is closing down and record crowns have shown up for a last fling at the tables. Fortunately, Sontag knows where they can rent a remote cabin owned by a man named Dietrich (Manuel Rodal), and his beautiful, much-younger wife, Diana (Dolores Fonzi). The hunting goes badly — Espinosa works with dead things but lacks the stomach for killing, and he and Sontag have a vicious argument. Left alone in the forest, Espinosa has a seizure and then, still shaky, takes a shot at what he thinks is a deer. When the "deer" turns out to actually be a man — Dietrich, in fact — Espinosa impulsively hides the body, knowing Dietrich's habits are such that he won't be missed for a while. Sontag returns to Buenos Aires, but Espinosa stays and soon discovers that Dietrich was part of a gang planning to steal the casino's last windfall. Suddenly he's in a position to make his deepest fantasy come true: All his life, Espinosa, who possesses both a photographic memory and the smug conviction that he's smarter than everyone else, has plotted crimes he never committed. Rising to the challenge, he convinces thugs Sosa (Pablo Cedron) and Montero (Walter Reyno) that he's Dietrich's associate and steps into the dead man's place. But Espinosa's rebirth as a criminal mastermind is fraught with danger, and his seizures — which are preceded by the titular "aura," a moment of paradoxical clarity and confusion in which everything seems possible because the illusion of control has been stripped away — further complicate his perilous situation. Bielinsky's NINE QUEENS (2002) was a complex romp through the machinations of high-stakes con artists, but this intricately plotted mystery ventures into darker psychological territory and never misses a step.