The Magic Gloves

2003, Movie, NR, 90 mins

Review

MAGIC GLOVES, THE | LOS GUANTES MAGICOS
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Martin Rejtman's rueful comedy unfolds against the backdrop of an economically depressed Argentina where everyone and everything is battered, exhausted and adrift, as exemplified by a handsome yellow dog named Lutor. Lutor passes through five sets of hands without really going anywhere — inherited, pawned off, appropriated, given as a gift and relocated within the same small group of desultory friends and lovers. Sad-sack gypsy cabdriver Alejandro (Gabriel Fernandez Capello, better known as Vicentico of the band The Fabulous Cadillacs), who looks paunchily older than his 36 years, ferries passengers around Buenos Aires in an aging Renault 12, once a sign of prosperity among Argentina's middle class and now the rattletrap symbol of recession-era frugality. Despite Alejandro's best efforts to ignore his current chattering fare, he's forced to acknowledge Sergio (Fabian Arnillas) — everyone calls him "Piranha" — when he insists he knows Alejandro from childhood: Alejandro attended school with Sergio's younger brother, Luis. Alejandro, who only wants to finish the shift and go dancing with his girlfriend, Cecilia (Cecilia Biagini), remembers neither, but by the time he gets Sergio home he's accepted an invitation to join Sergio and his wife, Susana (Susana Pampin), for dinner the following week. By then Cecilia and Alejandro have broken up by mutual listlessness and Alejandro needs somewhere to live: How fortunate that Luis (Diego Olivera) is in Canada furthering his porn career, and his apartment is empty! Alejandro moves in and barters cab rides for rent, while bossy Susana befriends Cecilia and convinces her she's chronically depressed. Meanwhile, Alejandro takes up with brittle, chipper stewardess Valeria (Valeria Bertuccelli); Cecilia begins dating a morose dog walker (Leonardo Azamor); Luis returns temporarily to make a movie with a crew of super-sized Canadians who aren't actually Canadian — they're just from Canada; and Sergio masterminds a series of get-rich-quick schemes, one of which — profiting from an impending cold snap by importing one-size-fits-all "magic gloves" like the ones Luis buys in chilly Canada — actually sounds feasible. By the movie's end, they're all more or less where they started, although a little wearier, no better off and gamely soldiering on. Only Rejtman's sharp eye for absurd detail and the bleakly subtle joke separates comedy from tragedy in this story of listless Bonaerenses chasing their own tails through successive drab rings of urban hell. (In Spanish with English subtitles) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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The Magic Gloves
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