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El Aura

By the director of "Nine Queens"

The Argentine director Fabián Bielinsky died after a heart attack in June 2006, at 47, leaving behind a small but potent body of work. His first feature film, Nine Queens, a gritty, twisting crime story, holds a special place in the recent wave of innovative filmmaking to come out of Argentina. In both Nine Queens and his second (and final) film, El Aura, Mr. Bielinsky made use of a familiar film noir vocabulary, but not for the usual young-fimmaker-in-a-hurry purpose of showing off his facility with genre tricks. Rather, his movies restore some of the clammy, anxious atmosphere that made the old noirs so powerful to begin with. The world of El Aura is, quite obviously, a heightened and stylized version of reality, but its governing emotions of dread, suspicion and moral confusion are bracingly real. With the exacting ruthlessness of a novel by Georges Simenon, it tells the story of an ordinary man – a taxidermist whose name is never mentioned – caught up in a web of crime, accident and mistaken identity. On a hunting expedition, a man is killed. The dead man, it turns out, was involved in the plotting of a casino heist, and the taxidermist, who once fantasized about becoming a master criminal, takes his place in the scheme. The reversals and shocks of the plot are brilliantly handled, but Mr. Bielinsky’s achievement is to generate an even deeper kind of suspense. Yes, you wonder what will happen next, who will live and who will die, but those local, procedural questions arrive with a tremor of uncertainty about the reliability of perception and the nature of fate. The taxidermist suffers from a number of maladies: disappointment, loneliness and epilepsy chief among them. The film’s title refers to the state of disorientation that precedes one of his seizures. That these occur without warning adds to the mood of apprehensive, terrified alertness that hovers over this story. The other chief components of the film’s uniquely unsettling aura are its setting – a heavily forested part of Patagonia, where isolated hunting camps offer recreation for sportsmen and cover for criminals – and Mr. Darín’s droopy, inscrutable face. He is rarely off screen, and for long stretches he barely utters a word, but he moves through El Aura like a concentrated, unpredictable weather system, sometimes spookily calm, more often agitated by some combination of worry, determination and regret. His moments of decency and compassion are as surprising as his episodes of ruthlessness. And the movie, even when it bends toward convention, never loses sight of its hero’s haunted, desperate perception of the world. For his part, Mr. Bielinsky, in what would sadly be his last film, demonstrates a mastery of the form that is downright scary. – A.O. Scott, New York Times
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Directed by: 
Fabián Bielinsky
Running Time: 
Argentina / France / Spain
Spanish with English Subtitles
Ricardo Darín, Dolores Fonzi, Pablo Cedrón, Jorge D’Elía

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