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BERLIN – Argentinean director Gustavo Taretto’s makes no bones about his inspiration for his feature debut Sidewalls, a smart romantic comedy about neurotic singles in the big city, even including a sequence from Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Expanding on his 2005 short Medianeras (also this film’s original Spanish title), with tongue-in-cheek aplomb the director adds animation, photography and graphic art to this sweet, hip homage to Buenos Aires and love in the visual, virtual age.
With The Match Factory behind international sales, Sidewalls should go far, especially with urban audiences looking for an intelligent, ironic, well-acted romcom that’s charmingly goofy rather than predictably goopy. The language barrier will keep it in art-house cinemas in the English-speaking world, though word of mouth is sure to be good.
Mariana (Spanish actress Pilar Lopez De Ayala) and Martin (Javier Drolas) are thirtysomethings with a heap of phobias between them. She’s afraid of elevators; he’s terrified of just about everything else. She’s a budding architect eking by as a window dresser; he’s an agoraphobic website designer who rarely has to leave the house, which he pretends suits him just fine.
Mariana’s and Martin’s voiceovers accompany great still shots of the city’s many buildings – some splendid, some rundown, some just modern horrors. These she loves while he claims they reflect the transitory, restless natures of Buenos Aires’ inhabitants and are responsible for their many neuroses. Pople’s true natures, she avers, can be gleaned from the sidewalls (medianeras), those bland, windowless building facades not meant to be seen and often covered in graffiti or advertising. In Buenos Aires, apartment dwellers sometimes knock out illegal windows in the sidewalls, to let some light shine both in.
We’re pretty sure Mariana and Martin will meet; the film is too light and sunny for anything but a happy ending. In the meantime, the story follows them as they wander through their separate lives, jobs and foiled attempts at dating, all the while afraid that they’ll never find “the one” who’ll make them feel less lonely. They live in the same neighborhood and even pass each other on the street but something always prevents them from making contact.
When the ending does come it’s a little too easy but that’s a minor grievance in a movie that keeps you smiling throughout.
Drolas (who was also in the 2005 short) and Lopez De Ayala are as handsome and endearing as the film itself. Playing their characters’ tic and quirks with nonchalance, they allow Sidewalls to keep its cheery poise.
Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama)
Production companies: Rizoma, Pandora Filmproduktion, Eddie Saeta, in association with Zarlek
Cast: Pilar Lopez De Ayala, Javier Drolas, Ines Efron, Carla Peterson, Rafa Ferro, Adrian Navarro
Director, screenwritr: Gustavo Taretto
Producers: Natacha Cervi, Hernan Musaluppi, with Christoph Friedel, Luis Minarro, Luis Sartor
Director of photography: Leandro Martinez
Production designers: Luciana Quartaruolo, Romeo Fasce
Music: Gabriel Chwojnik
Costume designer: Flavia Gaitan.
Editors: Pablo Mari, Rosario Suarez
Sales company: The Match Factory
No rating, 95 minutes
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