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Film notes: Crónica de un niño solo

Crónica de un niño solo depicts the lives of delinquent young boys in fascist-era Argentina. Despite its similarity to Truffaut's The 400 Blows, this film deserves renewed attention.

Crónica de un niño solo
(English title: Chronicle of a Boy Alone)
Directed by Leonardo Favio
1h 19 min, Argentina, 1965

Originally published on Letterboxd.

Crónica de un niño solo appears on the surface to be an obvious Argentine remake of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, with its central character being a young delinquent boy from the villas whose escape from detention is shot via a long, lateral dolly (but interrupted by jump cuts in a nod to Godard, perhaps). However, it’s also a singularly beautiful film full of inventive black and white compositions and elegant camera moves that reveal both interior and exterior spaces in surprising ways.

As in Les quatre cents coups, we’re shown the beauty of young boys in close-up but also in pastoral scenes by a river with the youths fully nude in shots reminiscent of Thomas Eakins in their open eroticism. It’s as if their poverty is made all the more poignant by their naked and vulnerable beauty. A particularly powerful scene depicts a friend of the main character being stalked and chased outdoors between the trees and across waterways. The camera sweeps back and forth tracking them as the soundtrack goes silent.

A lot has been made in reviews about the treatment of the boys and how the police oppression reveals the fascism in operation in Argentina at the time. But it doesn’t seem to me that all that much has changed for the poor who live there, so when Polin turns to look at the camera as he’s being dragged back to detention, his eyes are anything but imploring: They’re accusatory. Or at least that’s how I felt today. Those villas are still there, after all.

This is essential viewing, I’d say, and not just for those interested in Argentine cinema.

Written with StackEdit.

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