Imagining Argentina (2003)

by | Nov 26, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Imagining Argentina (2003)

Starring: Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson
Studio:  MCA Home Video/Universal
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1  
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Rating: **1/2

The first challenge viewers face in director Christopher Hampton’s
Imagining Argentina is accepting his unusual casting choice of pairing
Latino heart throb Antonio Banderas with the less showy, though more
accomplished veteran British actress Emma Thompson.

Thompson, who rarely disappoints her fan base with such full,
emotionally intense characterizations (her role in the HBO series
Angels in America comes to mind) does not dissatisfy here.  Her
portrayal of the idealistic and determined journalist Cecilia Rueda,
wife of political activist and eventual clairvoyant Carlos Rueda
(Banderas) is clearly the better one of this unlikely tandem.

Banderas and Thompson play an outspoken Buenos Aires couple living
under an oppressive regime in Argentina during the late
70s.   Cecilia Rueda (Thompson) disappears after writing a
controversial article which incites government officials: a justifiably
angry Carlos then dedicates himself to locating her.  As he
continues this pursuit, Carlos, a director of children’s theater,
discovers his own psychic ability to locate the whereabouts of fellow
Argentines who’ve “disappeared” or rather have been secretly detained
as prisoners.  His visions include clues to where Cecilia has been
held and sadly tortured, and though the fearless Carlos can’t quite
seem to find his wife, he certainly tries. 

With the additional challenge of an speaking in an Argentine accent,
Thompson offers a gutsier performance than her full-blooded Latino male
lead. The spicy Brit possesses bravery, intelligence, and sex appeal in
her role as Cecilia, all the while being held captive and tortured by
secret police!  It’s not surprising to see an actress of
Thompson’s talent and depth tackle such a role; whatever
characterizations audiences may be used to see this brilliant actress
play, in Imagining Argentina she shows the range to be a dissident, a
fighter, and the wife of Antonio Banderas. Look out Katherine Hepburn;
we have found your successor!

Returning to the story, while Thompson’s complete performance delights,
the film itself is less than spectacular.  Carlos’ unique psychic
visions give temporary hope to some of the townspeople searching for
family members, but his intuitive ability pulls him all over the place
in the search for his Cecilia, who simply won’t buckle in her quest for
her freedom.   In the end, viewers cheer on Cecilia’s
steadfast courage and resiliency – attributes which triumph over her
husband’s seemingly powerful psychic ability.   The final
outcome is mixed; why Banderas, with his constant visions couldn’t find
his captured wife sooner is a legitimate question the film doesn’t
answer.  Picture quality in this 2003 film is excellent,
particularly the lush scenes of the Argentina countryside.

– James A. Fasulo

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