Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYJFF ’16: How to Win Enemies
Abadi might not look like much, but he has an encyclopedic knowledge of
Argentine law and an intimate familiarity with Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley
novels. When a femme fatale slips him a mickey to plunder his life savings, Abadi
will use his hardboiled insights to track down the mystery culprit who put her
up to the job in Gabriel Lichtmann’s How
to Win Enemies (trailer
screens during the 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival.
Abadi has the brains, but he lacks his older brother Max’s charm and ambition.
The caper in question will unfold as Max the beaming groom reads the wedding speech
his visibly uncomfortable brother ghost-wrote for him. In retrospect, the woman
calling herself “Barbara” was probably too good to be true: a sultry legal
secretary who shared his passion for Highsmith and Agatha Christie. Their first
date goes swimmingly until Abadi wakes up with a headache and his recent cash
colleagues urge him to dismiss the incident as a random crime, but his
instincts beg to differ. She knew exactly what she was looking for—and there
are only four suspects who knew he was taking out money for a down-payment on a
flat. Frankly, Barbara’s copy of American
Friend is just too suspicious not to be an inside job.
Lichtmann strikes a rare tone with Enemies.
He keeps things light, but still serious. Abadi is dealing with some profound
issues of betrayal, but he is never in mortal peril, per se. It is therefore
rather easy to watch him peel back layers of the onion, but there are always real
sort of takes a little time to warm to Martin Slipak’s nebbish portrayal of
Abadi, but this is definitely a case where slow and steady wins the race. Ines
Palombo’s “Barbara” certainly seems like all kinds of dangerous. Sagrado Sebakis
notably brings some refreshingly off-kilter comic relief as “the Pelican,” the
firm’s off-the-books “consultant” and Abadi’s prime suspect. As the librarian, Carla
Quevedo also makes a strong impression with limited screen time, following in
the tradition of Dorothy Malone as the bookseller in The Big Sleep.
is quite a smart and wry little film. It is
doomed to be compared to Daniel Burman’s chronicles of upper middle class
Jewish Argentines, but Lichtmann’s caper is less fussbudget-ish and has
considerably more narrative drive. Its narrow scope and low key eccentricities could
be lost on those who expect liberal helping of either bombast and/or shtick,
but it is really quite a lot of fun. Affectionately recommended, How to Win Enemies screens twice this
Thursday (1/21) at the Walter Reade
Theater, as part of this year’s NYJFF.
Labels: Argentine Cinema, NYJFF '16