Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Secret in Their Eyes

(El secreto de sus ojos)
Juan José Campanella, Argentina, 2009 (9.5*)
Best Foreign Film (AA)

A retired couselor, played by Ricardo Darín, who worked for the court system in Argentina, is writing a novel about a homicide case that haunted his career. He goes to visit a former female colleague, Soledad Villamil, to discuss the case and get some input for shaping the story for his novel - he wants credibility, he's not just writing a memoir. The original homicide case, as well as the couple's work history, is then shown in flashbacks, from the time the politically connected Irene is newly hired into the office of a court judge where Benjamin is a dedicated and determined mid-level bureaucrat.

What follows is a complex and sophisticated crime story, which takes the viewers on a serpentine path that wanders from past to present. At times this is a mentally engrossing puzzle, but at others can be a brutal, conscience churning exercise in trying to understand the will and methods of governments, especially one controlled by police state fascists.

Mixed with the homicide investigation is an undercurrent of romantic intrigue, as the older bachelor, mired in a anonymous obscurity, has an obvious attraction for the younger, attractive, but engaged Irene. This is understated but to some may seem an unnecessary sub-plot that detracts from the crime story; it's for this reason that I didn't rate this a 10. Still, the screenplay, from a novel by Eduardo Sacheri, is terrific, as are the cinematography, editing, and Campanella's superb directing. This is one of the best crime films of the first decade of the new millenium, some are saying 'of all time'.

Including the Oscar® for Foreign Language Film, Secret won 34 international awards, and had another 19 nominations (awards page at IMDB). It's currently ranked #170 on the IMDB top 250, as rated by regular reviewers. It won 13 Argentinian academy awards with another 4 nominations.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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