As a first-time feature filmmaker, Gabriel Medina should take pride in the perfect finale of his heartwarming, Argentine comedy The Paranoids (Los Paranoicos). An energetic dance at a Buenos Aires disco between two newfound lovers (Daniel Hendler and Jazmín Stuart) leads to a deserted city street in the early morning hours. There are other achievements to celebrate before that joyous climax. A likable, if flawed, leading man, dramatic use of everyday occurrences and a poignant display of all too familiar worries by a young creative unsure if he's strong enough to accomplish his career goals make The Paranoids the latest standout drama from the vibrant New Latino Cinema. Visually striking, surprisingly dramatic and plenty hip thanks to an appearance by the Argentinean band FARMACIA, NY, specialty distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories has a critics favorite on their hands when they release The Paranoids in early 2010. With a mostly unknown cast, a first-time director and a tale too youthful for the older audiences who make up the majority of foreign-language moviegoers, theatrical earnings will be modest for Medina's debut feature. Still, it's a strong introduction to the U.S. market for a Latino filmmaker with a promising future.
Luciano Gauna (Hendler) has been working on a film script for years but does not have the focus to finish the job. In the meantime, he works alongside his friend Sherman (Martin Feldman) as a children's performer, putting on a furry purple monster suit at kids' birthday parties. Socially awkward, fearful of picking up sexually transmitted diseases, anxiety-ridden and narcoleptic to boot, Luciano's troubled life takes a tense turn when his longtime friend, Manuel (Walter Jakob), visits from Madrid. Manuel is a successful TV producer whose hit comedy The Paranoids revolves around an awkward lead character suspiciously named Luciano Gauna. Ordinarily, Luciano would be upset except that he's met Manuel's girlfriend Sofía (Stuart) and he likes her a lot.
Uruguayan actor Daniel Hendler (Family Law) is utterly charming and believably inept as Luciano. A mumbling hero with shaggy hair and torn jeans, Hendler captures the heart of Luciano's anxieties: his fear of success. In one of the film's many stellar scenes, Luciano pulls close his apartment curtains in order to practice dancing alone. He's that shy. So late in the movie, when he lets loose on the dance floor with Sofía, it's a triumphant moment.
Cameraman Lucio Bonelli makes Buenos Aires a beautiful city for heartfelt romance, and composer Guillermo Guareschi complements the lush photography with a pulsating score. Medina may be tackling his first feature drama after directing documentary shorts but he has a flair for cinema style. There are sequences of silence throughout the story and nice visual touches like a closing iris.
Still, what qualifies The Paranoids as a standout entry in the New Latino Cinema, a film every bit as noteworthy as fellow Argentine director Lucrecia Martel's La Cienega, is the romantic storytelling by Medina and co-writer Nicolás Gueilburt. Luciano's story is a series of small incidents and everyday events. It's a celebration of life's ordinary things; right up to its conclusion where dancing with the girl of one's dreams is anything but ordinary.
The Paranoids made its premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and has since played various film festivals like Seattle, San Francisco and SXSW throughout 2009. It's steadily built up a young fan base; perhaps enough for Oscilloscope to just exceed the miniscule earnings of recent Latino fare The Headless Woman and Unmade Beds. As Luciano finds happiness at the end of The Paranoids, hopefully Medina will find an audience within the competitive arthouse market.
Director: Gabriel Medina
Screenwriter: Nicolas Gueilburt and Gabriel Medina
Producers: Sebastian Aloi and Nicolas Tacconi
Genre: Comedy; Spanish language, subtitled
Running Time: 98 min.
Release Date: January 22 NY