produces better films, feminists or anti-colonialists? Supposedly, a prominent Swedish
feminist filmmaker and her grungy Argentine colleague will be joining forces to
co-direct a typically co-financed, festival-only kind of film, but nobody is
working in concert on this shoot. Every kind of ism and all sorts of
international film production conventions are skewered in Alejo Mouguillansky
& Fia-Stina Sandlund’s self-referential many times over The Gold Bug, or Victoria’s Revenge (trailer here), which screens during
the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Neighboring Scenes: New Latin American Cinema film series.
playing himself, is about to start co-directing an explicitly feminist film
with the Swedish Sandlund, funded with hipster European grant money. The idea
is to make a bio-treatment of Swedish feminist author Victoria Benedictsson.
However, unemployed actor Rafa convinces his colleagues to make a film about
failed radical Leandro N. Alem instead, because he has come into possession of
a map to buried treasure outside the city of Alem.
the town has nothing to do with Alem besides being named in his honor, but that
hardly matters. Caught up in his enthusiasm, Moguillansky calls Sandlund to convince
her to make the eleventh hour switch (swapping one Nineteenth Century suicide
for another), shamelessly playing the colonialism card. He can bamboozle the
European producers, but Sandlund remains dubious. Presumably, since she is
stuck at a feminist conference in Miami, she will be powerless to stop them.
However, like Charlie on the phone to the Angels, the heard but never seen
Sandlund will exert a powerful force from the shadows (remember the second part
of the title).
course, the meta-meta film isn’t called The
Gold Bug for no reason. Just as in Poe’s story, the map is only one clue to
the treasure’s location. There is also a cryptogram to be cracked. Naturally,
this will require a lot of madcap running around. Unbeknownst to Rafa and his
cronies, two women on the crew, acting with Sandlund’s counsel, are conspiring
to grab the treasure for themselves. There is also an incomprehensible anti-colonialist,
supposedly feminist film to be made—not that they have a script to follow.
Gold Bug follows in the tradition of
chaotic movie-making films, like Day for
Night and Irma Vep, but it has distantly
sharp satirical edge. When Moguillansky and Sandlund were thrown together as
part of some grant-writing, international financing deal in real life, the
concept grew out of the absurdity of their situation. Frankly, they expose a
lot of the sausage-making of multinational “prestige” filmmaking for ridicule.
frosty voiceovers are absolutely hilarious and Moguillansky delivers some of the
film’s best lines as the (hopefully) fictionalized version of himself. As Rafa,
Rafael Spregelburd (recognizable from The Critic) deftly balances raging insecurity and manipulative game-playing,
which probably comes naturally to many actors. In fact, the entire ensemble
seems to have a collective talent for rapid-fire cross-talk.
Gold Bug was co-written by
Mariano Llinás, who wrote and directed the utterly brilliant Extraordinary Stories (not to be confused
with Extraordinary Tales or Wild Tales). We can easily see his
Russian doll influence in the narrative digressions and intriguing historical
flashback interludes. It might be too clever for its own good, but anyone who
has seen an unwatchably pretentious film at a festival and wondered how it got
produced may find their answers here. Recommended for cineastes who do not mind
a little metaphorical ox-goring, The Gold
Bug, or Victoria’s Revenge screens Thursday (1/7) at the Walter Reade, as
part of this year’s Neighboring Scenes film series.
Labels: Argentine Cinema, Films within films, Neighboring Scenes '16