Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Traitors

Los traidores; Drama, Argentina, 1972; D: Raymundo Gleyzer, S: Victor Proncet, Raúl Fraire, Susana Lanteri, Mario Luciani, Mara Lasio

Buenos Aires, 1950's Roberto Barrera protests against the inhumane working conditions and the dictatorship of his country, thus managing to gain confidence of the workers and get elected as the head of the Union. But he soon abandons his principles and becomes a corrupted, egoistical man by taking bribes from industrialists. Through the '50s and '60s Barrera lies to the workers, always allowing the industrialists to fire them or reduce the salary, while preventing a strike. In '70s, the people start loosing their patience, rebelling against him. He deliberately disappears during the elections for 4 days, spreads the news he is kidnapped and tricks the voters into voting for him. Just as he returns to celebrate his victory, he is killed by a guerrilla group.

Banned 1972 film "The Traitors" is one of the last films the leftist director Raymundo Gleyzer ever made, before he "mysteriously" disappeared without a trace 4 years later. Judging by the corrupted and endlessly selfish characters in this story, one wouldn't be surprised if he was simply "removed" by the regime he criticized - in fact, when this film was expecting a premiere, all actors were arrested for staring in it. "The Traitors" is a raw, low budget, but good film that gave an interesting insight into the system of that government, and that reminds one of classic films like "Z" or "On the Waterfront", a one where the main hero is a bad guy; the corrupted Union leader Barrera. The realistic story is displaying bitter working conditions of Argentina from the '50s up to the '70s without any mercy: a man injures his arm, which starts bleeding, after it got caught in a machine in a factory, but the boss orders him to continue working since it's just a "bruise". The owner of the factory threatens to fire and old janitor if he doesn't spy for him by telling him who smokes in the bathroom during work. A sly doctor is inspecting two naked women in his praxis because the factory doesn't employ women with children. The transformation of Barrera from a simple worker to a corrupted "traitor" manipulated by the government was realized impressively, despite limited production values, while the documentary style elegantly avoids cheap provocation and enhances the revolt of the inhumane system. The most cynical gimmick Barrera used to trick his people was to disappear during the elections - then gaining sympathy from the voters by pronouncing he was kidnapped (!) - becoming only as controversial as one wants to. The film itself isn't as powerful artistically as is Gleyzer's frustration and intention to change things, but it's definitely far from a leftist propaganda.


No comments: