Thursday, April 16, 2015

Betibú [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  APUM (3 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing*

APU-Mohicano (A. Núñez Stock) review* (Chandler) review* (J. Ocaña) review*
El Espectador Avezado (R. Gallego) review* (E. Obregon) review* (D. Batile) review* [S. Mayne] review
Global Cinema (R. Stafford) review
The Hollywood Reporter (J. Holland) review

Betibú [2014] [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]* [SC]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Miguel Cohan [IMDb] [FAes]* [SC]* along with Ana Cohan [IMDb] [CN]* [SC]* based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Claudia Piñeiro [es.wikip]* [GR]* [Amzn] [IMDb] [CN]* [SC]*) is a fun / well-crafted contemporary ARGENTINIAN who-done-it / noirish crime thriller that played recently at the 2015 - 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival.

The story is set around a murder of a rich older man named Pedro Chazaretta.  His housekeeper found him one day, still sitting in his chair in the living room on the second floor of his well kept / quite spacious home, his throat slit, apparently from behind, old jazz record still spinning on the stylish turntable.

Okay, a murder of a rich guy, in this case Argentinian ... so what?   As always in a good, well spun "genre" tale, there's more going on than just a "regular" / "run of the mill" murder.

The murder, of course, causes a local / national media sensation, the more so, since Chazaretta had been accused (and acquitted) some years back in the suspicious death of his wife.  That suspicious death (and the investigation into Chazaretta's possible involvement) had previously caused a local/national media sensation.  So every newspaper / media outlet in the country (Argentina) was sending-in its "best people" to cover this story.

Enter the Buenos Aires Tribune, a newspaper / media outlet (fictionalized), which like newspapers / media outlets _everywhere_ else has been trying to adapt / survive / maintain an audience in an environment increasingly dominated by the internet.

Indeed, the Tribune's managing editor Lorenzo Rinaldi (played by José Coronado [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]* [SC]*) had recently made the decision of offering his grizzled veteran crime reporter Jaime Brena (played by Daniel Fanego [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]* [SC]*) an "early retirement package" in favor of a (presumably cheaper) "fresh out of journalism school" 20-something newbie Mariano Saravia (played by Alberto Ammann [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]* [SC]*) to lead his paper's "crime beat." Of course, Lorenzo wasn't expecting such a sensational murder to pop-up just as he was trying to lead the paper in this cost-cutting transition.  So good-ole Lorenzo has to "eat crow" a bit as he goes "hat in hand" to Brena's appropriately gritty "hole-in-the-wall" apartment to ask him to "stay on for a bit longer" to help the still "quite green" Mariano tackle the case for the paper.  Besides, Brena covered (quite well) the suspicious death of Chazaretta's wife a few years back as well ...

But the business minded Lorenzo also realizes that he needs more than a couple of "crime reporters" on this story.  He needs a ringer ... someone who'll bring people WITH KINDS OF MEDIA CHOICES (BACK) TO HIS PAPER.  And so ... as a GOOD MANAGER (and perhaps reflective of his desperation to "get this right...") he decides to eat yet "more crow": 

He calls-up an old flame, a famed (Argentine) mystery/thriller writer Nurit Iscar aka Betibú (played by Mercedes Morán [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]* [SC]*), offering her a large enough number of column inches on the front page each day to stop her eyes from rolling (Lorenzo was married when they started dating, and she finally dumped him when she finally/painfully realized that he'll never leave his wife).  He tells her that the other two -- she knows Brena, not "the new guy" -- would help her with the research, but that he, HIS PAPER, needs HER celebrated writing skills to "sell the story" ON / FOR HIS PAPER.

The other two don't mind.  Brena's just pissed-off because no-matter what the outcome, he's losing his job at the end of the tale because (and he knows it) he's "a dinosaur."  Mariano perhaps doesn't even realize that eventually he's going to have to stand on his own stories.  But both are actually kinda impressed to be working with a top-notch nationally renowned (celebrity) crime novelist.

So this then was the team that "The Trib" outfitted to tackle this case (and the nation's other major newspapers / media outlets were presumably busily assembling similarly impressive teams).

And a good part of the film's charm is of course this subtext of "what today's media outlets have to do to compete / survive" and even the more-or-less obvious scandal being presented here in the "Entertainment-izing of the News." After all the Trib's managing editor HIRED a FICTION WRITER to be the _lead writer_ ON A NEWS STORY ... ;-)

But let's get back to the murder...

A murder of a rich guy would probably make news anywhere.  But this is, of course, contemporary Argentina, with its own cultural / subtextual concerns.

It becomes clear that part of what shocks and even offends the Argentine populace is WHERE the murder takes place.  Good ole Chazaretta was murdered in his luxurious home LOCATED INSIDE one of those SUPER-SECURE "gated communities" that much of Latin America (including famously Argentina) is (in)famous for.  And the murder itself ISN'T what really "offends" the average Argentine reader (or the Argentine writer like Nurit "Betibú" Iscar).  Instead, what really offends the average Argentine is _the existence_ of these SUPER-EXCLUSIVE "gated communities."

Nurit Iscar, famed Argentine novelist and armed with a "Press Pass" CAN'T EVEN GET INTO THE GATED COMMUNITY without jumping through all kinds of demeaning hoops: "Who do you know who's living here?" "Nobody, I'm going there ON BEHALF OF THE TRIBUNE to write about the guy murdered there." "Well we need a name and phone number of a resident to call."  "HE'S DEAD ... you idiots ..." "Well, I'm sorry we're not allowed to let just anybody in." "I'M NOT JUST ANYBODY, YOU KNOW WHO I AM (I'll autograph a book for you if I have to ...) AND I'M GOING THERE TO WRITE FOR ONE OF OUR MAJOR PAPERS (here's a copy of today's edition if you need one...) ..." "Well, I need someone INSIDE to call."  "Argh ..."

When Nurit finally gets in, she talks into her dictaphone: "Here I am investigating a murder that should not have happened.  And I wonder what's more terrifying to residents of this gated community Las Maravillas (The Wonders), that A MURDERER was able to slip through all their security OR that A MURDERER may be in living in their midst ..."
What then of the murder?  This is, of course Argentina.  Chazaretta was, of course, a "rich guy."  But in Argentina, "rich guys" who live in ISOLATED, HEAVILY PROTECTED GATED COMMUNITIES are a relatively small circle of people and ... people who basically _all know each other_ AND THEN PRETTY MUCH ALL THEIR LIVES ...

So, what happened?

Well a team with a old grizzled "crime reporter" who'd "know a guy" for everything, "guys" who'd know "every plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, and ... (again, this is Argentina) every army PX-clerk in the country" would come-up with some leads.  Similarly a team with "a young guy" who "knows a thing or two about social media / Facebook" ;-) would come up with some leads as well (Maybe the old Patriarchs / Good ole Boys wouldn't use Facebook but their kids, grand-kids and nephews would ;-) --.  And then someone with the imagination of a successful who-done-it / crime novelist could connect the dots ;-).

It makes for a very fun and well spun story ...

And one that EVERYONE living in our world today could appreciate.   So good job folks!  Good job!

* Decent enough (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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