Published Aug 01, 2005Watching this Argentine comedy/drama is like eating a lot of junk food when there's nothing else in the house: at first you curse its very existence, knowing full well that it's not going to do you any good, but somehow you continue to eat, and eat, until nothing is left.
Lost Embrace is the tale of a young Jewish man who helps her mother with their lingerie shop in a small multi-ethnic shopping mall; though he curses his father for flying the coop when he was a baby, he has his own commitment issues to deal with, as he contemplates leaving for Poland. Meanwhile, a bunch of mild ethnic stereotypes swirl around him, and some of the persons of lower caste are rather patronised by the white principals. Worse, everything is rendered in an irritatingly precious style that minimises the hurt and softens the impact - Burman can't resist undercutting his characters with a cheap joke or a sentimental touch, and after a while you want to slap him for his constant bet-hedging.
But somehow you keep watching and watching until nothing is left, curious as to how the dovetailing of the hero's fear of intimacy and his Jewish background will pan out, and if various mall denizens will cling to the stores that are slipping away. Burman's technique isn't bad (and better than his previous Waiting for the Messiah), smartly deploying oblique compositions and jump-cut editing to keep things moving swiftly, and though it's far from a stylistic powerhouse it's not without its visual felicities.
It's too defensively self-effacing to be great, but it has enough pleasures to make it safely into dock, though it couldn't hurt to fix a few leaks. (Mongrel Media)