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Arts & Culture

El Aura

The Media Arts Center San Diego's Ethan Van Thillo said, This was one of the films at the festival that was kind of under the radar, but that received very good responses from audience members when leaving the theater. Ricardo Darin, the star of the film, is always a favorite of local audiences. Hes starred in

La Hija de Novia ,

La Luna de Avellaneda and

Nine Queens and audiences adore him.

Cinema Tu Idioma is screening El Aura . Van Thillo said "because it feels that it deserves a longer run here in the area; more than just the two screenings it received at the 2007 San Diego Latino Film Festival. This was Argentinas Official Selection for the Oscars and it was the last film of director Fabian Bielinsky, who in his short life was already becoming one of Argentinas leading filmmakers.

El Aura was Bielinsky's final film, and it reveals an increased maturity and assured artistry. The cocky bravado of Nine Queens has mellowed into something less flamboyant but more deeply satisfying. The film opens with taxidermist Espinosa (Ricardo Darin) having an epileptic seizure at bank. Then we see him carefully preparing the skin and eyes of a stuffed fox he's preparing for the natural history museum in Buenos Aires. Espinosa seems to be a rather solitary man. But he does reveal to fellow taxidermist Sontag (Alejandro Awada), while they are in line at the bank, that he is obsessed with the idea of committing the perfect crime.

Sontag then invites Espinosa to join him on a hunting trip in the forests of southern Argentina. While in the woods, Espinoza has a seizure and accidentally shoots a man, a man he eventually discovers, was in the midst of planning a crime. Now Espinoza considers seeing the dead man's plans through. As his obsession pulls him deeper into the dead man's world, he faces increasing danger.

El Aura (IFC)

The film unfolds with tense, deliberate pacing. The engrossing mood is enhanced by Lucio Godoy's evocative score. Godoy also heightened tensions in Intacto and The Others. In El Aura , Godoy's music -- along with sound design by Jose Luis Diaz Ouzande and Carlos Abbate -- sets a rather David Lynch-like tone as Espinoza often seems in a trance-like state as he contemplates both the accidental killing and the possibility of executing a daring heist. The line between music and sound design is blurred here as one merges into the other.

Ricardo Darin, who was brash and over the top in Nine Queens, serves up a more subdued and internalized performance as Espinoza. It's a contemplative performance, and he pulls us into the story. He's a man who seems bored by the inferior world around him, and his response to it is to simply detach himself from it. Only his stuffed and preserved animals seem to offer him satisfactory company.

Bielinsky reveals confidence as he slowly unfolds his tale. El Aura is as cleverly plotted and structured as Nine Queens but with less stylistic strutting. In contrast to heist films such as The Inside Man and Confidence, El Aura eschews a voiceover narration in which the main character explains his clever actions and revels in his superiority. Darin's Espinoza doesn't need to tell us anything -- and in fact that may be a far superior tone to take. But we see his mind constantly entertaining all the possibilities that lay before him with the dead man's notes and documents about his planned robbery.

El Aura (in Spanish with English subtitles, and unrated but for mature audiences) is a subtly engrossing thriller. It's too bad that director Bielinsky died last year at the age of 47, just as he seemed to be hitting his stride as a filmmaker.

Companion viewing: Nine Queens, Intacto , Son of the Bride -----

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