Monday, July 9, 2012

Boogie, el aceitoso (Argentina, 2009)

To quote Barbra Streisand: "Memories, light the corners of my mind, misty-water-colored memories..."
For a memory came to mind as we watched this film, an Argentinian film that you will probably never see because to date it has been released in English-speaking countries only with subtitles, something most English-speaking people don't know what to do with. The memory that came to mind was that of our first pal in Alexandria, VA, when we moved there from the mill town of Lee, MA, during second grade. At that time – the early 70s – Alexandria was not yet the totally yuppified and expensive place it is now. It was split down the middle by Washington Street: going down towards the water, it was mostly white and nice neighbourhoods (the most obvious exception being the local projects, The Burg), while going upwards towards the Masonic Temple it was a lot more "mixed" and even had a few deserted houses; unlike today, after dark you really didn't see any white folks on upper King Street, much less on Duke or Prince or anywhere around the city library.
Our first pal in Alexandria, whose name we've long forgotten, was a black guy a year or two older than us; we stayed friends until he brought us home once too often and his mother finally flipped her wig (plaits? cornrows?) and took him to task for bringing that honky into the house again and berated him for not having any real friends – for some odd reason, he didn't want to have much to do with us thereafter, and then he and his mom moved away. (We became friends with the boy of the white trash family that moved in afterwards, too – his parents used to beat him for being the kind of boy that likes Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand and talks funny, but that's a different story.) But before our first pal moved away, he once told us a joke: "What the difference between a white man and a bucket of shit?" The answer, of course, is: "The bucket."
As the years went on and we grew older, we heard that joke in varieties: In California: "What the difference between a Mexican and a bucket of shit?" In New York City: "What the difference between a Jew and a bucket of shit?" In Miami: "What the difference between a N-word and a bucket of shit?" In Berlin (of all places): "What the difference between a Kraut and a bucket of shit?" For all the variances of the question, the answer, of course, never changes.
But it is that "joke" (and, in turn, the memories associated with it) that the 3-D animated film Boogie, el aceitoso brought up. Why? Well, probably because Boogie, el aceitoso is the most politically incorrect film we've ever seen – it makes Rob Zombie's The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009) look like a Disney film – and, as tangential minds like ours tend to work, the confrontation with jokes that defy any and all good taste and/or concepts of PC rekindled our childhood memories of jokes of similar calibre. Face it, if you're offended by racist jokes or sexist jokes or sadistic jokes,* this film is not for you – but if you think cartons like Drawn Together are as funny as shit, then this film might be right up your alley, providing you can figure out how to read subtitles.
To put a little history to the film, Boogie the character has been around for awhile down in Argentina, where he appeared regularly in graphic novels 1974 and 1995. The creation of the writer Roberto Fontanarrosa, who died in 1997 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ("Lou Gehrig's disease"), Boogie is a parody of the kill-happy macho American hero ala Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, only instead of being a cop he's a freelance gun-for-hire and thug that is easily 1000% more psychotic, violent, sexist, callous, rude, cynical, kill happy, whatever than Dirty Harry, who, in comparison, is a total limp-wristed puff. When Boogie, a former mercenary, answers the question whether he's ever loved anything with "Loved the smell of napalm in the morning, it smelled like victory," he ain't just quoting a film, he's telling the truth.
Boogie is, basically, the personification of all the negative traits that Fontanarrosa saw as endemically US American, and indeed, for all the film's aggressive tastelessness, the film is also very much a critique of the USA's gung-ho attitude towards violence and its general "fuck the rest of the world" attitude. (The dream sequence in which Boogie rides a bald eagle that proceeds to scalp the world is perhaps the most blatant example of criticism of the US found in the film; the rest of the film criticizes mostly by parodist excess.) Next to the problem with the subtitles, this total disrespect for the US is probably the main reason this film will never get much attention state-side, where criticism from foreigners is met with even less patience than criticism from natives, who should really leave the fucking country if they ain't happy with it.
In regard to the film's 3-D, Boogie, el aceitoso is less 3-D than three layers: the characters are rendered in 2-D but placed in different depths, while backgrounds and other objects – like the hollow-tipped bullets that Boogie uses – are in 3-D. The visual result is odd and oddly primitive, but nevertheless effective and highly distinctive.
The plot is as mundane as that of any shoot-em-up action film: hired to kill a witness, Boogie gets doubled-crossed by his contractor and is now out not only for revenge and money but has decided to ensure that the witness makes it to her court date. Around this thin storyline, the bullets and bodies fly and blood splatters as thickly as the one-liners and throwaway jokes and visual gags, few of which can be said to be of good taste even if your taste is felching, water sports and Mexican hot chocolate. (It seems almost ironic that the director of Boogie, el aceitoso, Gustavo Cova, followed this animation film with a kiddy animation flick called Gaturro [2010 / trailer]).
Luckily, as offensive as Boogie, el aceitoso is, its contempt is universal and, since it is aimed at and hits everyone, is easier to handle than it would be if the film only hated women and black people; in the end, the misogyny and racism is simply as baroquely parodist as the film's violence and overall disrespect for everything it tips its hat at.
Boogie, el aceitoso ain't a pretty film and ain't for pansies or Ms. readers or Glen Beck fans, and we have our doubts it would sit well if screened at an NAACP meeting or, for that matter, at an NRA gathering, but it had us on the floor laughing our head off, so we give it a hearty recommendation. And who knows, maybe it'll awaken some misty-water-colored memories of your own...
*The German title of the film is Boogie – Sexistisch, gewalttätig und sadistisch, which literally translates into "Boogie – Sexist, Violent and Sadistic".

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