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The Secret in Their Eyes
Film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

On seeing the movie that won the Oscar (last March) for Best Foreign Language Film of 2009, it takes several scenes to sense its writer/director, Juan José Campanella, has had more experience directing episodes of American TV series with better known titles than "El secreto de sus ojos."

Set in Buenos Aires in the late 90s, the film moves imperceptibly back and forth in time---somewhat like CBS-TV's simpler "Cold Case," which comes from that most ubiquitous TV genre whose rerun schedule overwhelms just about every non premium cable channel this side of the oleaginous Gulf of Mexico.

Benjamin (Ricardo Darín), a retired federal justice agent, is getting closure by writing a novel about a brutal rape and murder he investigated in the mid 70s. The death of Liliana (Carla Quevedo) has been tough on Benjamin and his agent-partner, Pablo (Guillermo Francella). Both have always surmised the two lower-class men initially arrested for the crime were innocent. By an incredulous stretch of the script, Benjamin and Pablo discover as much by looking at old group photos that include the victim and see a man also shown in several of the snapshots, staring at the lovely, future victim with lustful awe.

How's that for being a good government gum-shoe? Aye! No doubt, the eyes have it. And, is that a new TV crime procedural I can already see on the way titled, "CSI: Buenos Aires?"

But those aren't the only secrets stashed in the peepers of some actors in this film. More obvious are those which flash between Benjamin and his department-head boss-lady, Irene (Soledad Villamil). Irene, as they used to say, "has eyes" for Benjamin, but she is his supervisor, after all, has a fiancé and a tick or three further up on the Argentine social ladder. That last one will do it every time, eventually, it seems.

Isidoro (Javier Godino) is Liliana's suspected killer but, ultimately, released from custody by the only demonstrably jerk-of-a-politician in the movie. It turns out that Isidoro is an effective thug at enforcing the non-corporatist, yet right wing (with blue-collar) tendencies that trickled down from Juan and Eva Peron. But that's about as close to vintage Argentine politics that "Eyes" gets.

Ricardo Darín

Ricardo Darín

Benjamin and Pablo have great sympathy and respect for the victim's spouse, Ricardo. He's played by another Pablo (a real one). His last name (a real one) is Rago. Liliana's Ricardo is a rock as he stands in forthright remembrance of his beautiful wife. Keep your eyes on him. Some good scenes are turned in by Señor Rago as well as Señora Villamil.

Also, keep your other eye peeled for the opening of "Eyes" big soccer stadium scene---of which Campanella gives an eyeful. It came almost as close to decking me as did the long tracking-shot Joe Wright put in 2007's "Atonement." Such cinematography is what film freaks can burst a retinal blood vessel just fantasizing.

But more on the acting: don't get me wrong. It's not that Señor Darín and Señor Francella don't do their parts well, it's what their director puts them through in the more office-centered moments in order to display their being best buds in Argentine crime fighting.

I was thinking more like, maybe: Felix (Tony Randall) and Oscar (Jack Klugman) ought to be doing Benjamin and Pablo "in "The Office"-like shtick seen on NBC.

More than the "Cold Case" television-ness of "The Secret in Their Eyes," it's the "Odd Coupling" effect the two do for lite laughs. Such schtick isn't needed to carry out what would've been, for me, a better film done darker. Must be that stateside TV-ness we've heard so much about lately.

"The Secret in Their Eyes" official site.

Opens June 25 at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa.

See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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