Extraordinary Stories (Mariano Llinas, 2009): Argentina

Reviewed by Byron Potau.  Viewed at The Landmark Theatre as part of the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Cruelly shown without an intermission (the film is set up to have two), this four hour plus film, Extraordinary Stories, from director Mariano Llinas builds an interesting mystery only to have all three storylines fall flat.

The film moves back and forth between three separate stories with its characters going by the names X (Mariano Llinas), Z (Walter Jakob), and H (Agustin Mendilaharzu).  The story of X has him witness a man who hides a briefcase, get shot shortly after, and take the briefcase when the killers have left.

Z’s story has him learn about the secret life, including maps and cryptic codes, of the deceased man that previously held his manager position.

When two members of a city planning organization make a bet about the possibility of a proposed project concerning the river being possible, H is hired to search along the river for structural evidence of a similar project that was started and then abandoned decades ago by a corporation.

The film is completely dependent on the narration to tell the story ,with very little dialogue from the actual actors on the screen.  This is not a bad thing as the narration is very well written, spoken, and often lightly humorous, but it gives the audience little chance to connect with any of the characters except the narrator.  Also, the film keeps repeating itself as the narrator goes over all of the events we have already seen every time we return to a story and something new happens.  It works fine, and is even helpful for the first viewing, but will add a lot of unnecessary running time on subsequent viewings.  The film also strays a few times covering brand new characters and their uninteresting stories three hours into the film.  Director Llinas does make fine use of still photographs in a La Jetee sort of way.

The main failing of the film is that most of the mystery in these stories is built up by the narrator only to have them peter out, failing to deliver on the four hour build up.  That’s a long time to set us up to have nothing much happen in the end.  The stories here turn out to be pretty ordinary, and would not be worthy of a two hour film, let alone a four plus hour one.

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