Mon 25 Feb 2013
Usually telling the end of a film is considered a spoiler. In the case of Argentinian director Sebastián Borensztein, Chinese Take-Out (Un cuento cino in the Spanish version) it would be a spoiler to tell how it begins. I actually watched the usual late comers to the cinema hall and wondered whether the film experience is really complete for those folks who entered even only two minutes late after the start of the projection. So, I won’t make the mistake of revealing the start of this quite charming feel-good film, I will just say it’s quite relevant.
The film tells the story of a grumpy mid-aged owner of a hardware shop in Argentina named Roberto who lives alone, refusing almost any relation with other human beings excepting his suppliers and customers (well, even with these ones only to the point where they do not walk on his toes). He is a good and decent man, and a very bad communicator at the same time. The last thing he needs in life is the appearance of a young Chinese man, Jun, frightened and disoriented, who looks for his uncle in the search for somebody to support him in finding a new way in a new country and who has no-one to rely on but Roberto whom he met accidentally. None of them speaks any word in the language of the other, and each hides traumas from the bast that justify their own barriers in communication. The whole movie is about finding ways to communicate and building a friendship that will help both in overcoming the hurdles of life.
Films about overcoming cultural gaps doubled by barriers of language and making human communication possible despite of them have been made in the past, the one I happen to remember is the Israeli Noodle, which was telling the story of a stewardess who finds herself taking care of an abandoned Chinese kid. What makes the story different in Un quento cino are the background stories of the two heroes and the fact that Ricardo Darin and Ignacio Huang are right on spot for the two leading roles. One of the nice ideas of the film is that Jun (Huang) does not really speak one word of Spanish during the whole film, he speaks Chinese, but no translation is available. The language gap is more than a emotional trick or a comic pretext in this film. It is the very glue upon which the relationship and eventually the friendship between the two characters is based upon. Although it is aimed eventually to be a feel-good movie (and succeeds to be so) Un quento cino avoids falling into cheap melodrama because of the discrete humor built upon the day-to-day situations, also based on the fact that in the absence of words the characters need to use gestures which to some extent remind the pantomime style of the early cinema comedies. A discrete and pleasant film.