Friday, April 30, 2010

The Official Story (1985)

Between the Jew fros and the fashion, the 80's hit Argentina hard.

The Official Story Continues the trend of historical dramas on the 1001 Movies to See List, but, unlike our last movie based on history, this one flops. The movie requires a lot of context that the average American doesn't have. The only things I know about Argentina are that it's in South America, Madonna sang a song there and it was a dump for awhile. The Official Story comes out firing against something terrible that happened there, but honestly I didn't care enough to figure out what it was. The movie has it's bright spots, but, overall, it looks and feels more like a Lifetime movie than an Academy Award winner.

The Official Story is about a family. More specifically, it's about the barren matriarch of a family who starts to have doubts about the origins of her adopted daughter. These doubts turn into concerns and fears that her daughter was stolen from a political prisoner by her husband. These fears take her into the darkest parts of Argentinian history as these fears become an obsession. The movie garnered a lot of critical success for a movie that no one has seen. It won several major awards in America, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and it was praised for it's daring, seeing as it was made entirely in secrecy because of it's politically charged message. Personally, I am more surprised that the film won an Academy Award than that no one has seen it.

It's important that I praise The Official Story where it deserves credit. The performances, especially by the lead actress, are pretty decent and the subject matter is, at least as a whole, interesting. These keep the movie watchable even though it's really quite underwhelming. My biggest problem with the movie is that it felt like it was directed by a person with an 8th grade understanding of symbolism. There is some really lame use of symbolism here, the rocking chair thing for example, that just made me laugh to myself. I appreciate subtly in my movies, especially in the symbolism department and The Official Story didn't have it. Also, the movie felt way too much like a Lifetime movie for my taste. There's a dark secret about this women's home life, granted her's has some political stuff going on, but it ends up with her going too deep and her husband beating her awkwardly. Maybe I am oversimplifying here, but The Official Story does nothing but solicit a great big "meh" from me.

An easy place to start when making a list of 1001 Movies to See is taking winner of major Academy Awards and putting them on the list. You can't really go wrong by doing that, since winning major awards means that somewhere, at sometime, someone thought the movie was important or good, but this movie begs a simple question. Does winning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film earn you "need to see" status? In the case of The Official Story, I think the answer is no. There are better movies about political strife, better movies about families dealing with the aftermath of political strife and, simply, better movies to put on the list. Next week we have another obscure, cultish movie from the 1990's, god I hope it's better than Naked Lunch, but until then just avoid The Official Story unless you have a boner for Argentinian history or something.



Heather said...

I think the whole reason it is "lame" to us is that it's a different culture, we tend not to be able to understand them completely.

The part with the rocking chair. Alicia's parents died, but her grandparents took care of her, and they lead her to believe that her parents just left instead of died. So every day Alicia would sit in that rocking chair, and sing that song that Gaby was singing. In the end, you see Gaby at her grandparents house, sitting in the rocking chair singing that song, waiting for her mother to return, but I don't think she returns at all.

I did enjoy reading your blog!

Alfindeol said...

I understand the significance of the Rocking Chair, but that didn't change the fact I felt it was quite forced and contrived. Thanks for the comment!

Robert said...

It is such a culturally removed movie, both in time and subject. I did enjoy it, but it did definitely alienate me! And it can be very lifetime-y. I thought the last scene was great,'s definitely over the top. I guess I'm a sucker for people getting their heads beaten into walls. O_O great review!!