Martin (Hache) 1997

 “You are as immoral as I am, but you don’t practice it.”

martinMartin (Hache) is a splendid character-driven drama from Argentinean director Adolfo Aristarain. The film focuses on the relationships between four diverse characters–Hache also known as ‘Jay’ (Juan Diego Botto), his emotionally remote, wealthy father Martin (Federico Luppi), actor Dante (Eusebio Poncela), and Martin’s girlfriend Alicia (Cecilia Roth). The film begins in Argentina with an upset Jay spending an evening in a club and carelessly taking a drug overdose. Martin flies to Argentina to see his son, and Jay’s mother, who is remarried and is expecting another child orders Martin to take Jay back to Spain. Martin agrees reluctantly. He’s busy working on a new screenplay, and he doesn’t try to hide his lack of interest in his son.

Martin seems to have little in common with his two main people in his life. There’s the bubbly, extrovert Alicia, who’s so outspoken, Martin seems embarrassed to be seen in her company. And actor Dante, is a self-professed Epicurean, and that basically seems to mean that he leads a no holds barred life of considerable excess. In contrast, Martin is quiet, withdrawn, cold and serious. He makes a study out of avoiding commitment, and when the confrontational Alicia drives a point of truth home to Martin, he simply backs her off with demeaning comments. Both Alicia and Dante don’t seem to expect much from their relationship with Martin, and that’s just as well because he’s cold and unapproachable.

Dante and Alicia befriend Jay, and even though they are both terminally irresponsible people, they are appalled by how Martin handles his son. Dante loves the anonymity of living in a hotel, but he makes room in his life for Jay, and Alicia, who has a drug habit that increases in proportion to her unhappiness, is ready to form some sort of unit together with Martin and Jay. While both Dante and Alicia chide Martin for his lack of emotional involvement towards his son, Martin remains stubbornly resistant to help and suggestions.

It’s the phenomenal acting from Roth and Poncela that make this film so memorable, and some of the best scenes occur in the discussions that take place between the four characters. The conversations reveal a great deal about the dynamics of the relationships (think Eric Rohmer–but not as cerebral), and the film’s focus is on acceptance of individuality–especially the acceptance necessary for a parent-child relationship. In Spanish with English subtitles.

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Filed under Argentinean, Cecilia Roth

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