Telling the real-life story of José Moran, a young employee of a Buenos Aires company who embezzles money and faces the tragic consequences, Fregonese uses a twofold approach. The mood and perspective is broken halfway into the film, moving from urban noir to prison-break drama – the latter also based on real-life events, though in fact unconnected to the first story. Fregonese mixes seemingly unrelated fragments of life, dramatic situations and cinematic language with a sense of bitter irony, while his grim fascination with the details of the individual’s downfall gives life to the film.
In its modes of production and genre conventions, the golden age of Argentinian cinema which dominated Latin American markets in the 30s and early 40s was partly inspired by Hollywood. Fregonese, who arrived on the scene as that golden age was already in decline, shared with the previous generation a passion for American films, here manifested in his effortless blend of styles; the Warner studio’s relentless visual minimalism (fast-cut newspaper headlines, pursued cars veering off the road) and Fox’s preference for realism and location shooting for crime dramas, as well as the use of voiceover.
Though American-style gangster films had existed in Argentinian cinema as early as 1937, this was not a pastiche but an attack on the idea of economic progress under President Juan Perón. Almost until the end of his career Fregonese approached money as an abstract concept, something that spreads like an infectious disease and changes the nature of relationships. He made films about men with bags full of neatly cut notes that would define their fate. If the director’s first attempts at securing a place in Hollywood, in 1937 and 1946, were deemed unsuccessful, Apenas un delincuente could only be realised at all precisely because of the interventionist policies of the Perón government. Ironically, it was the US that contributed to the end of Argentinian cinema’s golden age by imposing a politically motivated filmstock embargo, forcing Fregonese to drift back to the place where he had failed before; this time, in a double-irony, to make a film called One Way Street.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Chas de Cruz, Hugo Fregonese, Raimundo Calcagno, José Ramón Luna, Tulio Demicheli. F.: Roque Giacovino. M.: Jorge Gárate. Mus.: Julián Bautista. Int.: Jorge Salcedo (José Morán), Sebastián Chiola (Rosatto), Tito Alonso (Carlos Morán), Josefa Goldar (Doña Emilia), Linda Lorena (Laura), Nathán Pinzón (619), Homero Cárpena. Prod.: Juan José Guthman, Hugo Fregonese per Interamericana. 35mm. D.: 88’. Bn.
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