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David Bisbano's "B (Corta)"
Without a Cause
By Charles Leary

B (Corta).

David Bisbano's first film, B (Corta), may owe more to the stylistic traits of German Expressionist film than to a number of magnificent films of the "New Argentine Cinema" that exhibit a realist style at a gentle pace. This black-and-white film emphasizes chiaroscuro, and frequent rooftop scenes imply a two-dimensional image, as the city lights and moon in the background look like a nearby backdrop (it may have been rear projection).

B (Corta) might be called a teen film if it exhibited any of the rebelliousness and/or visible apathy characteristically associated with the genre. The main character Matias spends his time on the fringes of the skater subculture in Buenos Aires, often on the run from debt collectors looking for his friend Facundo. One reason for his marginality is his friend's status as a "glider," someone who rides the long skateboard made only for coasting and not for spectacular tricks. Even though Matias has a regular board, he still coasts through the film, and thus is also largely ignored by the other skaters because he is a shy, introverted teenager. So was James Dean in Rebel without a Cause, but he actually eventually did something rather than simply succumb to the world of the film. Matias instead is a stock character misplaced in the lead role. One wants to assume he has much to sympathize with on the inside, but the spectator here is only privy to a rather uninteresting exterior.

As a child, he does bury a secret object in the film's opening sequence, but the film never offers any reason to be curious about what it was. Even his dreams are boring, basically envisioning the same things that happen to him when he is awake. Instead we rely on the soundtrack for the most exciting dimension of the film, featuring songs from the vibrant Argentina hardcore punk rock scene. Yet when Matias goes to a club looking for his missing friend, he gets caught awkwardly in the mosh pit. While we get to hear the bulk of one decent hardcore song and another riot grrl number in its entirety, with the camera following Matias having a terrible time, this glimpse of Argentina punk rock is ruined and left lifeless.

The key location of the film is the rooftop of an abandoned building that is now Facundo's private haunted house/club house. After smoking a joint, Facundo explains the magic of the place as the wind begins to howl and an organ-intro to a punk rock song begins to play: the gargoyles lining the edges have people inside them, and they emit a poorly defined space that allows the intersection of different worlds. Ghostbusters described the inter-dimensional portal of the demon Gozer, guarded by gargoyles housing the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper, much more effectively.

The key gesture of the film is a sudden, surely fatal, leap from the rooftop. However, the film never shows the landing or discovery thereof, asking the audience to ponder its significance and "decide for themselves." Yet the evocation of German Expressionism never overwhelms the otherwise realist mise-en-scène, and thus one is left unprepared to hope they escaped to a better place, especially just to avoid the relatively accommodating dealers wanting Facundo to pay for his pot. The only other possibility offered by the film is that it could have been a dream. But that's no fun. Of course I love to be asked to work in order to appreciate a film, but I need to believe I will get some satisfaction from doing so. B (Corta) fails to persuade such a leap of faith.

Charles Leary
© FIPRESCI, Viennale, 2004



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