Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Woman Who Ran

Trenque Lauquen (2022) - Citarella Trenque-Lauquen-Still-3 Trenque Lauquen is a small city west of Buenos Aires. It means 'Round Lake' according to the locals. The city is the setting for a delicious, sprawling yarn. Laura (Laura Paredes), a biologist candidate from Buenos Aires, who was cataloging rare orchid species in the field in town, suddenly disappears. Part one of its 4 hours 10 minute running time, plays out with two men, Rafael (Rafael Spregelburd) Laura's boyfriend from the city, and Ezequiel (Ezequiel Pierri) known in town as 'Chincho', who was helping Laura in the field and grew affection for her, looking for now the missing woman. The men are asking locals around for her last whereabouts, driving back and forth endlessly in the small town. The film devotes much of its time between them looking for Laura and flashback of what she was up to when not collecting specimens in the field. With her likable personality, Laura made inroads in the local community. Things change when Laura discovers secret and explicit love letters inside old books while doing research in the local library. In the books she finds, the pages are stuck together, concealing the letters in between with clues to find more correspondencies between an Italian aristocrat and a mysterious woman from the area, in various books. It is slowly revealed that this amateur history snooping might have to do with Laura's disappearance. Laura finally confided the activities to smittened Ezequiel, the fact that he hides from Rafael.

Part two concerns Laura getting involved with a couple Veronica and Elisa, played by Véronica Llinás and Elisa Carricajo, who might be involved in the incident at the lake where locals found a possible humanoid creature. And Elisa might be related to the mysterious woman in the letters. Being a frequent guest at a local radio show, Laura left a long audio recording for Julia (Juliana Muras), the daily talkshow host, detailing her experience in Trenque Lauquen and the lake creature mystery and possibly where she is headed.

Trenque Lauquen is a dive into a rabbit hole that goes deeper and deeper as you dig. And the mystery thread gets more and more into a fantastic realm. In the middle of it all, is Paredes, one of the actresses from the acting company Piel de Lava (including Carricajo), featured in Mariano Llinás's epic, la Flor in 2018 and many of Mathias Pineiro films. She plays alluring Laura, who gets sidetracked in her field work by goings on in the small town where everyone knows everyone and rumors abound. Laura Citarella, part of the Argentine production group El pampero which produced La Flor, continues the long winded storytelling tradition with playful, shifting narratives with likeable, relatable characters.

Why did Laura stay on after her countract was up? Did she come to Trenque in the first place, because she didn't want to move in with Rafael in Buenos Aires as they planned? Did she not care for Ezequiel's passive puppy-dog love? Did she find her excitement in those salacious letters between an Italian nobleman and a mysterious local woman? Did she find peace and liberation in the company of lesbian couple who might or might not have captured plant/human hybrid creature and on the run from the authority? Trenque Lauquen plays out like a funnier, warmer and more intimate version of 'disappearance of woman' films a.k.a. L'Avventura, seen from a woman's perspective. Endlessly charming and entertaining, the film is very much like watching a Hong Sangsoo film without all the drinking; the intricacies of character interactions, the intrigue of every day life, the men's folly, the urge to escape the city living and enjoy nature. And most of all, freedom. It is one of my favorite films of the year.

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