Extraordinary Stories

Extraordinary Stories ★★★★

Really, it's three movies in one, cutting between three ninety-minute narratives about people trying to piece together clues to uncover the truth about something. That sounds awfully vague, but each story is very different from the others in its details, and only in the broad outlines are there any correspondences. So... being so dedicated to the idea of using detective story tropes as markers for existential concerns... it is Argentine AF. You know, Borges, Arlt, Cortazar, those guys. Shout outs in the movie to Adolfo Bioy Casares and (I think) Juan Carlos Onetti. Onetti was from Uruguay, but never mind about that.

And at the same time, it's a careful, impeccably controlled structuralist-film experiment, examining the ways that verbal content works in tandem with filmed images to create narratives. For the first 70 minutes, a voice-over narrator tells us who people are and what they're doing, giving us the information we need in a more detached way than we're accustomed to; into the second hour, when we first hear people speaking dialogue to each other in real time, it signals an important change in one character's relationship to the story he's living in... and throughout the movie, the interface between image and verbal content continues evolving; at some point non-diegetic music comes into the mix (soundtrack music is a language, too, okay? In that it contributes to creating meaning...) By the very end, all the permutations seem to have been explored, and we're treated to an explosion of auditory material shaping the story -- dialogue plus narration plus soundtrack music plus diegetic noises coming from a space offscreen. Winds down from there, and ends with a song playing while we look at a black screen, still conveying new information about the characters at the end.

None of this gives any sense of how much fun the movie was, but the stories are all intrinsically interesting, and... it's fun, okay? Not laboratory-dull, not experimental-dull or experimental-abstruse, just... fun.

PS: I'm glad the story of Cuevas didn't end with a Nigerian Prince punchline.

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