DYE, MOMMIE, DYE

Movie: The Blonds

Our Rating: 3.50

Easily the most formally sophisticated feature to have played the D.MAC facility, The Blonds plays head games with the conventions of political memoir. Argentinean filmmaker Albertina Carri sets out to learn the truth about her parents, intellectual activists who were dragged from their homes, incarcerated and eventually murdered by the military in the incendiary but hazily remembered days of 1977. Making the rounds of old neighborhoods, Carri quizzes friends, family members and her parents' former collaborators in the underground about the facts behind their lives and deaths. Who were they, really? And just what happened to them?

The rub is that it's not really Carri doing the interviewing, but actress Analía Couceyro, who announces early on that she will be "playing" Carri in the film. When aged neighbors re-bond with the "grown-up" Carri, it's really the stranger Couceyro they're responding to. The real Carri is seen occasionally, in deconstructive sequences – shot mostly in black and white – that offer glimpses of the methodology behind the subterfuge.

Why this peculiar tack has been taken, we're never told outright; perhaps Carri wishes to distance herself from the exploitative aspect of autobiography. But the end result (which betrays a partial debt to the "docu-fictional" approach of Alexander Kluge) is to make us question everything in the movie. The memories of those interviewed by Carri/Couceyro are plainly faulty: They contradict each other on key points, from the activities of the Carris to the color of their hair. Yet with Carri parading Couceyro before the world as her proxy, who knows how many of her own basic claims we can trust?

Adding a further layer of distance, Carri includes some stop-motion-animation sequences peopled by happy-looking Playmobil figurines. (The nod to early Todd Haynes is no accident; like Haynes, Carri has in the past chronicled the on-camera doings of Barbie and Ken dolls.) This director appears deeply suspicious of straight-ahead representation: There's a brief discussion of the possible similarities between the film camera and the torture implements that were allegedly used on her parents. But what The Blonds is "about," mostly, is the inadequacy of memory. The harder she works to unlock the mystery of her parents' past, the more Carri learns that no view she assembles will ever be correct. In matching style to subject matter, she has made her entire film a monument to unknowability. Prepare yourself for any reaction but satisfaction.

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