(Happy Holidays)

foreign films

Made in: Argentina
Language: Spanish
Director: Lucho Bender
Starring: Gaston Pauls, Pablo Cedrón, Luis Machín, Carlos Belloso, Silke, Marcelo Mazzarello
Year: 2003

Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, the lives of several men converge...sort of. First there's the story of heart-broken Juan (Luis Machín), who needs to leave a Bar Mitzvah celebration and get to Buenos Aires. The only one who can take him is an annoying comedian (Carlos Belloso), but their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

Then there's Julio (Gaston Pauls), who's desperately searching for a popular toy that his son wants for Christmas. But all the stores he visits are sold out. At the same time, lonely but kind-hearted Rodolfo (Pablo Cedrón), a doctor, meets beautiful Laura (Silke) by chance in a bookstore. She is the former lover of Juan, and lives alone with two pet dogs.

And while on his search, Julio gets accosted by police officers who force him to be a witness of an investigation.

Remarks: Felicidades is one of those foreign films that will turn off all but the very elite art-house enthusiasts. I admit that whatever the film was trying to say was way above my head.

Although I really like Gaston Pauls and thought Silke was pretty good, I found many of the characters in this film irritating. There's just way too much talking, and there are at least two characters that got on my nerves so much that it tainted my viewing experience.

I understand that Felicidades was aspiring to be philosophical, in that not all of our plans turn out the way we want but the end result of things not working out bring us to life changes that lead to new possibilities. Or something like that.

But the movie dragged so often that I felt the filmmakers were deliberately trying to confound the viewer. I've seen this trick before with some French New Wave directors from the 60s, where audiences are deliberately jerked around so the directors can say from their pretentious aesthetic pedestal and declare that "if you don't get it, you're a cultural Neanderthal because this is supposed to have a deeper meaning."

I don't mind being challenged by a filmmaker, but man, if you're going to tell a story, then tell a f*cking story. I gave Felicidades a chance and finished it (instead of hitting the eject button on the DVD player), and call me ignorant, but I just didn't see the hidden "art" in this movie.

It just seemed like a pretentious foreign film that people are afraid to criticize for fear of being called narrow-minded.

Who would like this movie: How the hell should I know?

I do apologize for my tone (perhaps it's this humidity) but believe it or not, I am willing to make an effort to understand this film. So instead of dismissing it with a zero star rating, I'll just say that I'm a film reviewer who's not guaranteed to explain every film that I see.

So if you've seen Felicidades and think it's great, do email me and let me know why (especially if your name is Alex Chancey). Don't just call me an idiot because that's not what I asked.

In the meantime, I'd only recommend this movie if you're really, really good at watching and understanding highly artistic movies. Again, I apologize for this borderline rant.

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