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Jul 9, 2007

The Parable of the Live-In Crisis


In every crisis there is an opportunity. Those who aren't paralyzed by melancholy and fear will take advantage and adapt to new changes. Those who resist changes or ignore them will be condemned to fall to pieces. That's the case of Beba (Norma Aleandro), who in the midst of the Argentine economic and social crisis of 2001, still believes that the best way to face hard times is living like in good times and to show off to maintain status. She can't do anything without her maid Dora (first-time actress Norma Argentina), who with the slow transformation of Live-In Maid (2004, original title Cama Adentro) will become something else than a maid.

Debutant director Jorge Gaggero goes through a few interesting challenges with success. First of all, he puts together an inexperienced actress with probably the most talented in Argentina. It means working in rehearsals and shootings in many different levels of communication. This was reflected in the great performances, especially in Norma Argentina who didn't seem novice. Secondly, he makes the decision to not use a music score at all, taking the film to a simpler and pure character-driven story, which also forces a situation where every aspect of the storyline and script must be precisely executed. Finally, he uses the macro crisis in a subtle way, without turning it into the main character and excuse. Thus, it functions as a background that enriches the micro crisis in the characters and helps the evolution of the women's relationship.

The story turns into a parallel experience where the power relation between Beba and Dora balances, many symbols emerge from this plain tale --at first sight-- and new layers are revealed: the mud mask, the looks in the hairdresser, a mute security camera, a birthday cake and some other special moments make us reflect and get deep into this lesson of life and friendship. Dora cries in a restaurant. Beba, despite all... dances. The outskirts vs. the city,  a difference of classes and a separation that seems like a divorce undress dignity in both of them.

In every crisis there is an opportunity. Imitation and negation comes to an end, and change is a fact--one more time. Sometimes the new stages after adaptation can be dramatic or worse. Sometimes they divulge a very particular way of love. Sometimes they carry prizes in Sundance and Tolousse, a great reception in Argentina, an invitation to screen in the prestigious Film Forum, and an amazing review in The New York Times. Beba and Dora are not the same, and probably Jorge Gaggero, and many of the filmmakers and artists that went through the Argentine crisis neither. The director himself may have learned many lessons from his first feature. The audience too: in an industry exhausted of ideas and multi-millionaire remakes, the best thing that can happen is crisis.
 
(Written for Cinema Tropical)

Live-In Maid (Cama Adentro)
Director: Jorge Gaggero, Argentina/Spain, 2005, 83 min.
In Spanish with English subtitles

Opens Wednesday, July 18, for two weeks.
Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street
www.filmforum.org  (212) 727-8110
Showtimes: 1pm, 2:45pm, 4:30pm, 6:20pm, 8:10pm & 10pm

*Filmmaker Jorge Gaggero in person! Wed/Thu/Fri Jul 18-20 at the 8:10 shows

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