Appearing on the list of the 100 best Argentine films of all time, The Buenos Aires Affair (1949), by Hugo Fregonese, features an indebted gambler who commits embezzlement in the company where he works and then hides the loot whom he intends to find after his release from prison. Film submitted by Argentina to compete in the category of Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, The Delinquents (Los delincuentes), by Rodrigo Moreno (El custudio, awarded in Berlin in 2006), moves away from its model.
“The original film has little to do with mine,” confirms the filmmaker, joined by videoconference during his visit to the New York Film Festival. In the first, it was only Morán who wanted to take his employer’s money to become a millionaire, which is quite naive. I had fun shaping and distorting the beginning of the story, appropriating its subject in order to bring it to my territory, to my generation, to my obsessions. »
In the 2023 version, Morán (Daniel Eliás), an employee in a bank, steals a large sum of money which he then entrusts to his colleague Román (Esteban Bigliardi) explaining to him that they will share the loot after spending three years behind bars. Before surrendering to the police, Morán will cross paths with Norma (Margarita Molfino), Morna (Cecilia Rainero) and Ramón (Javier Zoro), reader of the adventures of the superhero Namor, with whom he will spend a few quiet hours in the countryside. Later, it will be Román’s turn to briefly taste the peaceful lifestyle of the three friends.
“Anagrams started as a game. I had fun creating the names of the characters based on Morán’s. Later, I realized that these anagrams brought meaning to the film. I found myself with two characters who more or less became mirrors with the same destiny, with similar elements, but organized in a different order. »
When Morán arrives in prison, we notice that Germán De Silva, who plays the bank manager Del Toro, also lends his features to the gang leader Garrincha: “Throughout the film, I play with the double, the split screens, the similar scenes. By having an actor in a double role, I also emphasize this impression of duplicity. Even though the comparison is inevitable, I didn’t want it to be as literal as that, but when you visit a prison, you feel like you’re in a bank vault because there are so many doors and bars. »
Wishing to escape their routine work and their monotonous existence in Buenos Aires by taking advantage of the 650,000 dollars stolen by Morán, the two colleagues discover that, like their new friends who live in the greatest freedom in the open air, they wish to spend their days reading poetry, swimming in a lake, and horseback riding.
“In my previous films, I deal with the tension between leisure and work, between schedule and lack of time,” explains the director. The Delinquents is a film about the use of time. »
Lasting more than three hours, with a very slow pace, The Delinquents moves away from the traditional heist film with its multiple complex and fast-paced plots. Contemplative, both poetic and playful, this disconcerting dramatic comedy alternately makes you dream and smile.
“What I really wanted to do with the film was to give a feeling of happiness to the spectators, a bright aspect to their lives because most of the films that contemporary cinema gives us are so dark, so cruel, that I think it’s good to offer something that is different. I hate it when a filmmaker shows cruelty towards the audience. I don’t think it’s fair,” concludes Rodrigo Moreno.