Jorge Polaco  



A highly idiosyncratic Argentinian film-maker. I tend to compare him to Andrzej Zulawski in the sense that he gets his actors to deliver wild, unhinged and raw performances. Except there is one critical difference in that whereas Zulawski reduces their performances to their primal emotional drives but keeps their human complexity, Polaco frequently reduces his characters to the most unhinged primitive Freudian drives and perversions only, often to the point that they become caricatures rather than symbols. This also doesn't allow for insight since their characters lose their complexity. Recurring themes in his movies are the various break-downs of various family ties via the most primitive and untamed sexual drives, dead ancestors hovering over the characters and affecting their behaviour, and a clash between personalities, generations and classes. This approach sometimes borders on the surreal, and he does use, at times, light touches of surrealism in his exploration of their psyches, and the constant sexual perversions tend to be extreme as well. Even when he directs a conventional movie like the caper comedy 'It's Always Hard to Return Home' (not reviewed here), his characters go beyond silly, campy and slapstick into outright crazy and unhinged behaviour.

Of Some Interest

Rice and Milk  
Polaco makes a cinematic kitschy ode to old age, and portrays the clash between youth, the elderly and death. A miserable old man staying with his horny daughter and son in-law starts causing trouble, so they forcibly commit him to an old-age home run by nuns. Except that he finds a new youthful, even childish life in the home, causing a pensioner revolution, having love affairs with a nun, hanging out in strip-bars and generally having a good time. While this is happening, his daughter and son in-law trip over themselves and their lusts on the way back, causing all sorts of mishaps. The dead matriarch of the family hovers and comments over the goings-on, and Saint Isabella, patron saint of the sick, appears as a surreal symbol, while the old man carries his cross, and angels sacrifice all manner of materialistic offerings to her. As usual with Polaco, the characters here are over-the-top caricatures reduced to their basest impulses, silliest behaviours and histrionic melodramas. And of course, sex between the youthful couple involves a whole sequence of ridiculous fetishes and kinky role-playing games, but this is par for the course for Polaco. So, as much as the above plot sounds like a fun comedy, the actual film experience is one of tolerating the tiresome antics of childish histrionics somehow mixed with poetic and pretentious dialog, and the attitude to the elderly, rather than being a respectful ode to experience and wisdom, feels condescending, as to children.

Tuning Fork (Diapasón)  
Polaco's first full-length movie is by far his most focused, interesting and surreal work, and it makes use of some stylistic elements that he later took to ridiculous extremes. This movie is a kind of dark, repugnant side to the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady movies, and an attack on a class society, as well as on the viciousness of a bad marriage. A middle-class aristocrat adopts a simple-minded and very impulsive woman under his tutelage. It starts with condescending attempts at control and obedience, progresses to verbal abuse and humiliations galore, then to physical abuses. He constantly abuses and humiliates her in front of the help, and in front of various people that he employs to try to improve her appearance and behaviour, as well as guests, while she just seems to be interested in serving him, making him happy, and modelling for him. He treats her like a sex-toy, a child, an experiment etc. As he becomes more obsessed with her however, paranoid fantasies start to creep in, and ghosts from his past visit his mind as he recalls the way his father treated him, etc. It goes full-on surreal towards the end, featuring a surreal scene where society is medically inspected by the help and then she is pimped out to them. There is also a meta-ending where his world is uncovered as an artificiality. The characters, unfortunately, are portrayed and acted way over-the-top, and given this, they are hardly interesting nor do they provide insight. This approach to reducing people to their most basest behaviour, drives, kinks and fears would take over Polaco's later work.

Worthless

In the Name of the Son  
Polaco portrays yet another perverse family unit. The middle-aged son is just a bundle of every perversion under the sun: He works with restoring dolls, except he also does disturbing things to them to mess them up and then use them as masturbation toys. He has an incestuous-sexual relationship with his mother whom he treats like a doll. His clients include little girls with whom he plays disturbing sexually-suggestive games until he gets tired of them and becomes abusive. His mother decides to hire a prostitute for him and he makes her perform a whole sequence of disturbingly-bizarre fetish-games involving dolls and gender-ambiguous play-acting. And finally, he seems to want to be a doll, a child, another gender, as well as his mother, and we all know where that leads. Got all that? His aging mother is a disturbed childish woman herself, treating her son as both a replacement for her dead husband as well as her little boy. She is also a kleptomaniac and especially likes to steal from accident locations. The plotless movie simply portrays their relationship, their perverted games and dialogue and interactions, and their antics outside with acquaintances. Jewish themes are used probably to hint at her being a suffocating Jewish mother, except the Jewish music is Eastern-European and they are Argentinian, and for some reason they live as Christians. What does it all add up? Nothing really. One could perhaps interpret it as a satirical portrayal of the break-down of families and sexual relations via Freudian diagnosis and an over-the-top trashy approach, but that would be pushing it. It's really just a trashy movie that reduces a family and people to their most basic and outlandish instincts and perversions.

Kindergarten  
Banned in Argentina for 20 years due to nude content involving minors, and thought to be lost. This impenetrably metaphoric and surreal movie by Jorge Polaco portrays a family in trouble. The father has a lover who physically worships him and walks around with pubic hair in different colors, the step-mom is depressed, breaks out in manic emotions and causes her husband to panic and order her repeatedly to open her eyes or to stop her outbursts. She also has a mentally handicapped big brother and an unhealthy physical and emotionally tense relationship with her step-son, a young boy who also walks around naked in some scenes. There are recurring themes of difficult relationships with dead or disabled ancestors, including a mummified grandfather whom they keep and abuse in the basement, an alluded car accident that haunts them, and a dotty grandmother who seems preoccupied with objects, as well as many busts and paintings of relatives. Other themes include a nursery of children or animals playing, and games between the father and his lover, and in-between, a strange symbolic character appears to give popcorn or chickens to the children. The film is mostly a series of emotional or playful interactions and raw outbursts between the characters, sometimes reminiscent of Zulawski, except that it is very static and doesn't develop. This, together with the fact that the movie is not enjoyable on its own terms without its hidden meaning, did not allow me to derive any pleasure from it.

Lady Returns, The  
My second Polaco movie and I am just as confused and bored. Visually, this movie is even busier than Kindergarten, looking like John Waters had filmed it on a Corkidi set, or as if someone had taken everything in the props warehouse and thrown it all over every set, then gone to the thrift shop for costumes and bought anything with bright colors. Like Kindergarten, the plot is paper-thin and the movie consists mostly of scenes of people interacting, over-acting, throwing emotional outbursts, dancing, playing and having kinky sex, with various pets roaming all over, but unlike Kindergarten, this one is all about kitsch, trash and Waters-style comedy. Polaco uses an Argentinian ex-sex-symbol, bringing her out of retirement, giving her the role of a woman who comes back to her hometown rich, teaming up to save the city with her ex-lover the kinky mayor, who has a manic, hysterical wife, and a fat masturbating mommy-boy son. There is some revenge against some wacko inhabitants of the city who used and abused her when she was a helpless homeless young woman, all straight out of a soap opera, and lots of dancing, festivals, gaudy costumes, random horny, kitschy and trashy antics, a post-mortem wedding, strange acrobatic performers, a hairy butt at the gym, random pigs, molestation by bodybuilders, raunchy performances by insane transvestites, and heaps of scenes with actors chewing up the scenery (and there is a lot to chew up!). Colorful & insane trash.




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