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  • 15
  • Comedy
  • 2003
  • 100 mins

Lost Embrace

Lost Embrace

Synopsis

In Daniel Burman's seriocomic scenes from a Buenos Aires mall, Daniel Helder searches for his father and himself

About

"The mall is a world of appearances", announces Ariel Makaroff (Hendler) at the beginning of Lost Embrace, and sure enough, in the run-down retail gallery where he and his mother Sonja (Aizemberg) sell lingerie products, the truth is often concealed and mysteries abound.

The business of Ariel's best friend Mitelman (Korol) looks like a travel agency, but in fact he's a financial wheeler-dealer. The fabric merchants opposite who call themselves the Levin brothers are really cousins, while no one seems to know how Ariel's lover Rita (Bosco) is related to the much older male backer of her internet shop, or how the two Koreans in the Feng Shui store are related to each other, let alone how on earth they ended up in Argentina.

It's even unclear what Ariel's own brother Joseph (Boris), once an aspiring rabbi and now an imports trader, means when he claims he wants to go "back to nature". Only the gloomy stationery seller Osvaldo (Fajn) is, according to Ariel, no more or less than "what he looks like: nothing. He's invisible."

Yet the biggest mystery for Ariel is just what drove his father Elias (D'Elia) to abandon the family for Israel shortly after Ariel's birth in the 1970s, leaving behind only fragments of his existence; and as Ariel struggles with his own feelings of resentment and restlessness, he wonders to what extent he may be a chip off the old block  until some old truths come home to roost, allowing for "another Makaroff miracle" and a new beginning.

It may be entirely confined, like Burman's earlier feature Waiting For The Messiah (2000) and his documentary Seven Days In Once (2002), to the Jewish enclave of Once in Buenos Aires, and it may seem to consist of little more than a series of meandering and impressionistic episodes (formally demarcated by intertitles) involving a loosely connected ensemble of eccentric people, but there is more to the "world of appearances" in Lost Embrace than first meets the eye.

On a political level, its insistent uncovering of the human stories behind every market stall serves as a subtle corrective to the dehumanising policies of the International Monetary Fund, whose economic rationalism created so much hardship for Argentineans in the early noughties (when the story is set).

Yet at the same time as Ariel, Mitelman and even the local rabbi hatch plans to leave Argentina behind for the greater financial security of Europe or the United States, their shopping centre, with all its rich humour and stock characters, seems just like one of the Old Country shtetls that their grandparents also fled years before to escape the Holocaust; while the little dramas that unfold there, addressing issues of family, identity, community and race, turn the mall into a microcosm of the world. For in the humanist vision of Lost Embrace, where you are proves much less important than who you are with.

Shot entirely with handheld cameras and featuring believably naturalistic performances, Lost Embrace shows a rough vérité surface, but is finely crafted underneath, with a screenplay as funny as it is meditative; and its conciliatory ending, which in lesser hands might have been unforgivably mawkish, is instead beautifully understated, and all the more touching for its awkward tenderness.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Atilio Pozzobón , Jorge D'Elia, Adriana Aizemberg, Sergio Boris, Isaac Fajm, Daniel Hendler, Diego Korol, Silvina Bosco
  • Director: Daniel Burman
  • Writer: Daniel Burman, Marcelo Birmajer
  • Photographer: Ramiro Civita
  • Composer: César Lerner

In a nutshell

Affectionate, funny and ultimately moving, Burman's fourth feature embraces humanity in the Argentinean marketplace.

by Anton Bitel

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