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  Common Crime, A The Guilt Of The Intellectuals
Year: 2020
Director: Francisco Marquez
Stars: Elisa Carricajo, Mecha Martinez, Eliot Otazo, Ciro Coien Pardo, Cecilia Rainero
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cecilia (Elisa Carricajo) is a sociology lecturer in Buenos Ares, who is single mother to a young son, Juan (Ciro Coien Pardo) who she dotes over, providing him with trips to the funfair, and regular gifts and treats. She has a housekeeper, who has an adult son named Kevin (Eliot Otazo), and they are on very good terms, but there is the class difference that perhaps keeps them apart as well. For Cecilia, society is something to be contemplated and theorised about on as intellectual a level as possible, but she is living with her head in the clouds of the bourgeoisie if she believes that will help her cope in a country labouring under corruption. So it is when one night she is woken by hammering at the door, and on peeking through the Venetian blinds, she sees Kevin...

The tradition of South American political cinema continued with Argentina's A Common Crime, just the thing to go down well with the critics and cognoscenti, though how far it would create change, or even debate, outwith that exclusive club was, well, debatable. Whereas something like The Battle of Algiers continues to be held up as one of the most mobilising political films of all time, decades after its release, this little item was too focused on its professorial protagonist that you imagine it would really only appeal to other professorial types who had the luxury of being able to ruminate on the issues affecting their communities and wider world, rather than the people who, like Kevin, found themselves bearing the brunt of the corruption and eventually, its violence.

After a quarter hour of following Cecilia around her life, devoted equally to her studies and her son, you may begin to wonder where this was heading and whether it was worth sticking with. But she is about to be taught a lesson and given a wake-up call to her complacency, when Kevin comes to her for help. She is evidently the person he knows with the most respect and power, so what does she do when she could genuinely put her money where her mouth was and help one of the underclass she discusses in her classes and papers? She hides like a coward, refusing to open the door to the young man and in effect allowing him to be taken away by the authorities who were victimising him. The impression is that co-writer and director Francisco Marquez intended his work here to be a stinging indictment of those who are all mouth and no trousers politically.

But on a different take, Cecilia is as much a victim of the oppressive government and police as Kevin, for they have ensured that while she has the freedom to talk over the issues of her nation, she and her colleagues - and indeed, entire middle class - are too scared to do anything about it, since they are as much living with terror as those who are kidnapped in the middle of the night. It's just that the intellectuals are given some space to exist in some comfort knowing that as long as they do not rock the boat, they will not fall under the attentions of the police and suffer as a result. A Common Crime was extremely harsh in its judgement, flirting with thriller and even horror conventions but preferring to leave this as a sinister psychodrama where Cecilia was worn down by the stress of her guilt and the possibility she could be noticed by the bully boys who left Kevin in an unenviable situation. To that end, it would get under your skin if you let it, much as the issues it raised would for anyone living with them, but it was more concerned with mood than incident, and that is not going to attract a huge audience, no matter how far it needed it. Music by Orlando Scarpa Neto.

[A COMMON CRIME (Un crimen comĂșn) - RELEASED ON 9th APRIL 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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