the nearby 7 points

Argentina, 2021

Direction and script: Maria Alvarez.

Duration: 81 minutes.

Premiere at the Gaumont Cinema.

Gray Gardens, the influential 1975 feature film directed by Albert and David Maysles, inaugurated a cosmos in the field of documentary cinema, dedicated to the meticulous record of the lives of slightly or palpably eccentric elderly men and women. Far from the morbidity and the exploitation of behaviors, of any sensationalist tonality, the best exponents of this authentic subgenre confront the viewer with some of their essential fears – the passage of time, dementia, death – and make it possible to identify with an age, the third, that it continues to be relegated in modern societies in more ways than one. Argentine filmmaker María Álvarez He has been fertilizing that cinematographic terrain with three films whose differences are greater than the similarities. On the cinephiles (2017) the camera accompanied a group of women in love with cinema on their journey through review rooms and the occasional festival, while The lost time (2020) focused on a handful of attentive readers of À la recherche du temps perdua Proustian brotherhood far removed from the academic sphere.

Old age, in both films, was accompanied by desires, vitality, longing for new knowledge. The same does not happen in the nearby, which has just won the award for best film in the Argentine Competition at the last edition of the Mar del Plata Film Festival. It is that, unlike what could be inferred from those lovers of Proust and the “seventh art”, the best of the life of Isabel and Amelia Cavallini, twins who at the time of filming turned 91It seems to have happened decades ago. According to the director in an interview published in these same pages, “I don’t know if I found them or they found me, just in time to tell their story.” In any case, the history of Coca Cola and Yuyunga, as the composer affectionately baptized them Carlos Guastavino in the golden times, is the story of a duet of virtuoso pianists (one more technical, the other more “romantic”) who knew how to shine in the 50s and 60s, both in Argentina and in the United States. Then things happened, several of which are told in the first person by the protagonists.

the nearby it begins as it ends, 80 minutes later: with the complex moving of a piano that seems to anticipate other farewells. A little earlier, not much, the “girls” live in a downtown apartment that is ostensibly cramped for them. Populated with memorabilia -papers, autographed photos, sheet music-, objects of all kinds and a collection of porcelain dolls that would make any collector green with envy, the sisters walk from one room to another dodging things. And sometimes dodging each other. They love each other, of course, and they need each other, but the decades of life together, symbiotic to the highest degree, also reveal quarrels, grudges and simple differences of character. The film hardly leaves that area, with the exception of a few escapades to a fast food joint and a visit to a doll doctor. Álvarez never puts himself above his characters; much less does it expose them to sarcastic laughter. Even when the record seems to be about to get into dangerous areas that could allow cruelty or stupidity, cinematographic modesty – which is nothing more than a form of ethics – makes him avoid that possibility.

An example of this is the tremendous scene in which a wrong movement ends with the fall, impact and breakage of a huge and fragile baby on the bedroom floor. The anguished cries can be heard, but the camera remains far away. It is a central moment in the nearby, the one that allows the viewer to fully enter or be expelled from the story. How much madness is there in these two twins who have never had children and, for that reason, have “raised” a pair of inanimate objects?

Of course, the memory of the professional career, more than half a century ago, occupies a preponderant place, although the attempts to make the piano sound now inevitably end in forgetfulness and wrong tones. María Álvarez, intelligently, reserves a small surprise for the end that allows to appreciate the youthful energy that until that moment had only been reflected in words, in the past tense. It is the moment of tears, of the densest and heaviest, the melancholic ones.


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