Film Review: Green Waters

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Berlin International Film Festival -- Forum
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BERLIN -- A family beach holiday turns into a nightmare of paranoia for a stressed-out dad in "Green Waters," a startling debut from writer-director Mariano De Rosa. Bold, fresh and vibrant, the picture is a pleasantly surprising change of pace from what we've come to expect from younger Argentinean art-cinema. Indeed, with only a couple of minor tweaks here and there, you'd have a pretty broad, mainstream comedy.

This tangily offbeat combination of moods and genres won't be to all tastes, and may well polarize audiences and critics alike, restricting its commercial potential. But it would be a major shame if such an accomplished and distinctive effort merely remained a cultish find among film-festival attendees.

Hitting the ground running, De Rosa quickly -- and noisily -- introduces us to a boisterous foursome getting ready for a seaside vacation. Uptight fiftyish dad Juan (Alejandro Fiore) is still pretty lovey-dovey with his younger, more easygoing wife (Milagros Gallo); teenager Laura (Julieta Mora) -- like the song says, not a girl, not yet a woman -- feuds endlessly with her pudgy little bro (Maximiliano Gigli).

En route to the beach, Juan stops for gas -- an opportunity for Laura to make the acquaintance of Roberto (Diego Cremonesi), a footloose traveler in his mid-to-late twenties. Juan's displeasure deepens into exasperation when the ever-grinning, too-good-to-be-true Roberto turns up at their destination, and exerts his charms not only on Juan's daughter but also on his missus as well.

Taking its title from the name of the resort where most of the action unfolds, "Green Waters" ("Aguas Verdes") isn't exactly subtle. Indeed, De Rosa -- shooting on pungently colored Super16 -- seems as much influenced by 1970s horror/thriller/crime cinema as the more classy forebears (Pasolini's "Theorem" and Fellini's "La Dolce Vita") he dutifully cites in his press notes.

The blaring score, kinetic camerawork and oppressively detailed sound-design (by Daniel Ibarrart) make for an unusually intense viewing experience -- thus serving the serious purpose of taking us right into Juan's fevered mind and overactive imagination. Situations and behavior ring consistently true and convincing, while De Rosa's integration of humor is a major plus.

He amps up sequences of excruciating social awkwardness to the very edge of absurdity -- with sometimes hilarious results, and without crossing the line into the camp or cheesy. It's a giddy, risky balancing-act, and there aren't that many directors out there, regardless of age or experience, with the nerve to attempt it and the skill to pull it off with such aplomb.

Production: Ruda Cine & Rizomafilms (Buenos Aires)
Cast: Alejandro Fiore, Milagros Gallo, Diego Cremonesi, Julieta Mora, Maximiliano Gigli
Director: Mariano De Rosa
Screenwriter: Mariano De Rosa
Producers: Mariano De Rosa, Hernan Musaluppi, Gaston Grazide
Executive producer: Rosa Martinez Rivero
Director of photography: Pablo Schverdfinger
Production designer: Oscar Lozano, Luis Sales
Music: Hernan Cleza
Costume designer: Guillermina Vigas
Editor: Mariano De Rosa (Co-editor Carla Gratti)
Sales: Mariano De Rosa, Buenos Aires

No rating, 89 minutes