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Suddenly

Three for the road

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Marcia (Tatiana Saphir) is a lonely lump of a girl; she works in a dreary lingerie shop by day and eats in front of the TV by night. While walking to work one afternoon, she is accosted by two punkish lesbians, who have nicknamed themselves Mao (Carla Crespo) and Lenin (Veronica Hassan). Mao brusquely announces her immediate and vulgarly phrased desire for Marcia, who finds she is repulsed but somewhat intrigued.

 

Lenin and Mao hustle a mildly protesting Marcia into a cab, which they hijack for a trip to the beach. Marcia, who has never seen the sea, is touched, but still resistant to Mao's sexual aggressiveness. Rather than return to Buenos Aires, the three embark on a haphazard journey, ending up at the modest home of Lenin's great-aunt Blanca (Beatriz Thibaudin). Blanca, who keeps two lodgers -- Delia (Maria Merlino), an artist, and Felipe (Marcos Ferrante), a student -- leases her spare room to the trio.

 

The film's second half finds these six characters interacting in predictable and unpredictable ways; with each small set-up (Mao goes shopping with Felipe, Blanca gets drunk), the film unveils little bits of its often enigmatic personalities. Blanca, especially, proves to be delightful, a lively old lady with whom the normally recalcitrant Lenin quickly finds affinity. In one of the film's best scenes, a dog nipping Lenin's hand is cause enough for Blanca to break out a cheap bottle of booze and while away the afternoon singing old songs with a neighbor. Meanwhile, Mao's capriciousness becomes less charming and increasingly pathological, and Marcia finds motivation to embrace new experiences.

 

Suddenly is the debut feature from young Argentinean filmmaker Diego Lerman, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Maria Meira (from a novel by Cesar Aira). In most ways, Suddenly plays out like many other indie films -- produced and shot on a shoestring, with a slight story, "ordinary" actors and a simple message of quiet self-discovery. 

 

In fact, a movie about a trio of malcontents embarking on an aimless road trip, shot in black-and-white with long static shots punctuated by moody silences and non sequiturs, largely unsentimental but not without heart and moments of dark humor, put me in immediate mind of Stranger Than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch's 1984 film that helped kick-start the U.S. indie scene and possessed a similar style and vibe. It may be that Lerman -- a player in his country's newly burgeoning independent cinema scene -- is indebted to this neo-indie classic. Yet, however slight, Suddenly possesses a quiet unassuming charm all its own. Two and a half cameras

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