Trenque Lauquen review – compulsive and completely absorbing

Movie

One of 2023’s most astonishing films comes in the form of a two-part opus about a woman drawn to mystery that takes a few cues from Twin Peaks.

Cinema, by its design, is obsessed with intimate, present tense emotion. What is happening to a person now, and how are they reacting to it? The cosseted, conventional shape of films doesn’t tend to allow the exploration of slow change over time, or grand arcs which have been catalysed by something unforeseen or unfathomable. Laura Citarella’s extraordinary, novelistic new feature, Trenque Lauquen, stretches its narrative luxuriantly, yet economically, across 260 minutes to tell the simple story of a woman who has the audacity to change her mind.

The film opens on the news that a character named Laura (Laura Paredes, who also co-wrote the film with Citarella) is missing, and that’s just the first of many subtle overlaps with David Lynch’s bucolic meta soap opera, Twin Peaks. Through a series of recollections from Laura’s spurned lover, we track her efforts to untangle a tortured fling that occurred in the past, all of which is detailed via a cache of love letters that have been artfully concealed between the pages of books from the local library.

With the verve of a master classical storyteller, Citarella stages the unfolding of this eccentric mystery while processing the dizzying flow of information with a grace and precision that will have you hanging on every frame. It’s compulsive and completely absorbing, and Laura’s dedication to this ad hoc investigation which may have no conclusion is echoed in a performance that empathetically redefines tired cinematic notions of obsessive behaviour.

The film states: just because a woman is blind to your romantic overtures, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her, as Laura’s sudden purpose for hokey archaeological discovery takes precedence in her own love life. Laura’s day job is as a local radio host whose slot is dedicated to arcane feminist icons, and through her daily travails we see that she’s transforming into one of her own subjects.

Laura’s whereabouts are tied to the conclusion of this mystery, and so there’s a sense of driving towards a massive, mid-film reveal. And that’s when things pivot into a completely different, sci-fi-shaded space that wouldn’t have been out of place in an episode of spooky ’90s serial, The X-Files. The details of the story are less important than the fact that the film is about the specific level of empowerment that women should have to transfer their personal labours elsewhere, and at a moment’s notice.

There are certainly elements of sentimentality in this story which relate to love stories that wither at the point you think they’re about the blossom, but what’s most moving and radical about the film is its decision to frame the drama and emotion of someone opting to suddenly change the course of their life with such commitment and ingenuity. Citarella is an integral part of an Argentinean filmmaking collective called El Pampero Cine who were responsible for 2018’s 808-minute La Flor, itself a work which employed extreme duration as a way to emphasise the vibrancy and variety of life to those willing to smash the reset button.

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Published 5 Dec 2023

Tags: Laura Citarella Trenque Lauquen

Anticipation.

Plaudits a-plenty on the festival circuit, and great that it’s being released in the UK.

Enjoyment.

An extraordinary achievement in both narrative storytelling and thematic originality.

In Retrospect.

In a year of VLF (very long films), Trenque Lauquen is quite possibly the finest of them all.

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