The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - TRENQUE LAUQUEN | The Movie Waffler


Two colleagues search for a missing woman in Argentina.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Laura Citarella

Starring: Laura Paredes, Ezequiel Pierri, Rafael Spregelburd, Elisa Carricajo, Juliana Muras, Verónica Llinás, Cecilia Romero

Trenque Lauquen poster

Where to begin with this one?! At four hours long, with multiple narratives, genre inflections and timescales, Laura Citarella (what a name) and Laura Paredes' Trenque Lauquen (Citarella directs while Paredes co-writes and stars) is a hearty prospect - sprawling doesn't begin to cover it. So, let's start with the film's first sequence. In a conceit which acknowledges the film's literary correlations, Trenque Lauquen is split into discrete, non-linear chapters, and in this opening portion we meet Rafael (Rafael Spregelburd) and Ezequiel (Ezequiel Pierri), who are searching for missing Laura (Paredes - I love the consistency of the name Laura, an early indication of the film's coquettish nature).

Trenque Lauquen review

Laura has gone missing, leaving a note: "Farewell, farewell. I'm leaving, I'm leaving." The document's parallelism is mirrored by the duplicate of men looking for her; Rafael her boyfriend and Ezequiel a colleague who harbours, in this film which pulses with urgent romance, an inevitable crush on Laura. In media res, we see the blokes wander about a parking lot back lit by a fetchingly indigo evening light. Ezequiel is on the phone, expositioning in rapid Spanish: of Rafael he says, "He doesn’t know anything," duly setting the mien of this compellingly inscrutable film. The men amble about, have a bit of a back and forth about coffee and where to take the search next, before shooting off in a new direction guided more by instinct and heart than hard logic; a vague destiny which may or may not provide closure. Seemingly loose, we will come to realise that this opening scene relays the eventual macrocosm of Trenque Lauquen and its expansive ruminations upon narrative imperative.

Throughout the film, Laura (Paredes is amazing, by the way - like our besotted lads, we develop an instant fascination with her enigmatic intelligence and open beauty) engages in similarly quixotic expeditions. In flashback, she obsesses over letters secreted away in books within the town library. The erotic epistolary details the affair between a teacher and a smitten landowner – in fantasy chapters we see re-enactments of the letter's contents wherein Paredes plays Carmen, underlining this film's own mania for empowered, magnetic women. Or, to be more specific, it is the concept of these women - along with the enthralling abstract mystery of Carmen and the prized botanical specimens Laura is researching (which lead her to the ambitious sci-fi experimentation of a mysterious couple) - which beguiles in this film with its multiple meditations on human impetus.

Trenque Lauquen review

In Trenque Lauquen characters find meaning not in the resolution of the quest but the journey itself. As Rafael continues to look for Laura, clues and red herrings blur. We discover that she was a columnist for a radio show, and we witness her investigating the eerie associations of a local lake (the "round lagoon" of the title). But are the visualisations of these scenes Rafael's imagining, or even the subjective recount of Juliana (Juliana Muras), the radio host? In Trenque Laquen it's the same difference, with a labyrinth narrative that honours the mercurial imagination of the great Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. Crucially, along with his reflexive, intricate storytelling, Citarella and Paredes retain Borges' sense of humour and keen sense of humanity, too. Midway through the film's first half, Ezequiel suggests that the prize of "working out the enigma" is that you do it yourself, alone. And thus, while Trenque Lauquen remains stubbornly unfathomable, the warmth its characters create seduces us, nonetheless. The tone may shift depending on the plot focus, and the depiction draws upon different genre palettes, but Citarella and Paredes' storytelling retains its genial clarity throughout.

Trenque Lauquen review

Where we begin or end is ultimately an irrelevance in this story which shuffles like a pack of cards. We watch and engage, and like the characters, our intrinsic need for narrative resolution is enticed via the filmmakers' masterful sleight of hand. A film about how we watch, and what story might mean, Trenque Lauquen is a cinematic magic trick which makes willing marks out of its rapt audience.

Trenque Lauquen is on MUBI UK now.