Ostende: Film Review

The small Argentine thriller is heavy on atmosphere, thin on story. 

First-time filmmaker Laura Citarella debuts a small art-house entry that should find quiet appreciation on the festival circuit.

Slow-moving but pleasantly heavy on atmosphere, Ostendeis a laid-back Argentina thriller set in an off-season tourist resort where strange goings-on may or may not be happening. It’s all in the mind of the young heroine who spies on the other lodgers Rear Window-style and fantasizes about a potential, if unlikely, crime. Smoothly directed, with great attention to detail, by debuting filmmaker Laura Citarella, this small art house entry should find quiet appreciation on the festival circuit, though it lacks the star power to break out much farther.

Laura (Laura Paredes) arrives in the fancy beach hotel several days before her boyfriend, who has won them a vacation for two. The windswept beach proves uninviting for a girl on her own, and her attention turns to observing a distinguished white-haired gent (Julio Citarella) who seems to be sharing his quarters with two attractive young women. One day she follows them and overhears a quarrel. Is something fishy going on?

The small Argentine thriller is heavy on atmosphere, thin on story. Slender material indeed for a feature film, but Citarella plays her story with cool calculation, never tipping her hand until the final revealing shot, à la Michael Haneke’s Hidden. This shifts all the weight of the story onto the frail shoulders of Laura, a protag so deliberately anonymous she barely has a screen personality. The melancholy oceanfront and nearly empty hotel are menacing without actually being spooky; each shot is sensitively lensed by cinematographer Agustin Mendilaharzu to create a world out of the ordinary.

Venue: Rome Film Festival (Extra out of competition), Nov. 2, 2011. 
Production company: El Pampero Cine
Cast: Laura Paredes, Julián Tello, Santiago Gobernori, Débora Dejtiar, Julio Citarella, Fernanda Alarcón, Agustina Liendo
Director: Laura Citarella
Screenwriter: Laura Citarella
Producer: Mariano Llinas
Director of photography: Agustin Mendilaharzu
Music: Gabriel Chwojnik
Editor: Alejo Moguillansky
Sales Agent: El Pampero Cine
No rating, 85 minutes.