Pizza, birra, faso: intentional
with Los olvidados?
Argentina: Pizza, birra, faso
So, I'd like now to go straight into a discussion
of the first film, Pizza, birra, faso ["Pizza, beer, fags"], which
was made in Argentina in 1997 by a couple of young, virtually unknown directors
— Bruno Stagnaro and Adrián Caetano — on the shoestring budget (for a feature
film) of US $400,000 (Ravaschino 2002), and which has been credited by the
influential film review El amante cine with having substantially changed
the course of Argentine cinema (Noriega 2001).
"The taxi ride from hell"
I'm going to show a clip now from the opening
of the film, which I think could accurately be described as "the taxi ride
from hell" — I've added the subtitles to this myself, because the film was
not distributed with subtitling. Points to watch out for are: the hyper-mobility
of the camera throughout the extended opening sequence, the overlay of radio
transmissions by the police and radio news reports on the audio track, the
in-your-face portrayal of time-space compression, speed-up, transportation
and communication systems, and of course the dual violence of social exclusion
Clip 2: Pizza, birra, faso
(subtitled) (4m 55s)
|Windows Media Format
Modes of vision
This frantic, in-your-face filming style,
made possible by light-weight highly mobile cameras, came as something of
a revolution in Argentine cinema, and I think this new mode of seeing is
signalled heavily in the opening sequences. Instead of the immobile establishing
shots of traditional filmic discourse (such as those in the documentary
prologue to Los olvidados), we are presented with a frenetically
speeding camera, a rush of movement in a fragmented cityscape where the
durée of place has been replaced by velocity, smeared into a blur
along lines of transportation and displacement.
But let's concentrate on the visualization
of speed and transport in that edited clip. Not only is the camera almost
always travelling in the opening sequences, but at least five different
types of transport are signalled: cars, buses, taxis, trains, and the
businessman's missed aeroplane (implying global space), all in rapid movement.
That such transport signifies velocity, or time-space compression, is
obvious, but that velocity and rate substitute for temporal depth in the
global megalopolis is, I think, carefully signalled by the close-up of
the taxi-driver's digital clock in the roof of his car at the beginning
of the taxi-mugging sequence.
- Time versus
Fredric Jameson indeed argues that time can
no longer be perceived as a depth formation, something that accrues slowly
in great geological strata, in what he terms the era of postmodernity.
The Seeds of Time
Time is now "a function of speed, and evidently
perceptible only in terms of its rate, or velocity as such: as though
the old [...] opposition between measurement and life, clock time and
lived time, had dropped out" (Jameson 1994: 8).
- Time is function
If time has now become velocity, the rate
of change of fashion designs on the store front or its web page, or
the rate of change of the locales in the shopping-mall, of the built
environment itself, time thereby in a sense fizzles out in an instant,
since velocity is a measure of a displacement over time.
Jameson also claims that this new, absolute
temporality, "has everything to do with the urban [...,] its postnaturality
to technologies of communication as well as of production and [...]
the decentered, well-nigh global, scale on which what used to be the
city is deployed" (Jameson 1994: 11).
Pizza, birra, faso, is a film
about the rebellious, youthful, criminal underworld of Buenos Aires;
it follows the violent lives of a group of teenage boys and a pregnant
teenage girl, who resort to crime in order to supply their basic necessities,
the pizza, beer, and fags of the title. They live the lives of the teenage
youths analysed in Mario Margulis' fascinating study of the Buenos Aires
nightlife, La cultura de la noche, for whom,
Al refugiarse en la noche, se resignifica
la ciudad y parece alejarse el poder. Ilusión de independencia apelando
al juego del tiempo; tiempo no colonizado en que parece resignar el
control; tiempo no utilizado plenamente para la reproducción económica,
para la industria o la banca. Si todos los espacios están colonizados
queda el amparo del tiempo, el tiempo como refugio. (Margulis 1994:
In the refuge offered by the night, the city is resignified and
power appears to recede. It is an illusion of independence which encourages
a playing with time; uncolonized time in which they are released from
control; time not used up in economic production, industry or banking.
If all the spaces are colonized, there remains the shelter of time,
time as a refuge.
The character nicknamed Córdoba — the
one with the gun in the clip — finds himself increasingly caught between
his carefree criminal existence and the increasing responsibilities
demanded of him by his pregnant girlfriend Sandra. Unable, despite
trying, to hold down a regular job, he resorts to increasingly audacious
robberies in order to be seen to be "providing" for his future family.
urban films from Argentina
- Sur (dir. Fernando
- Buenos Aires viceversa
(dir. Alejandro Agresti, 1996)
- Mundo grúa [Crane
(dir. Pablo Trapero, 1999)
with other urban films
Although not the first urban film of
the post-dictatorship period in Argentina, and certainly not the
first to portray violence, Pizza, birra, faso is the first
such film to use largely non-professional actors, and the first
to avoid any kind of moralizing metacommentary, whether in voiceover
as in Sur by Fernando Solanas, or in the portentous narrative
development and cinematic self-reflexivity, as in Buenos Aires
viceversa by Alejandro Agresti.
In this sense, it is not that far
removed from Los olvidados, to which it pays explicit homage
by restaging the infamous attack by the boys on a legless man.
Two brief clips will illustrate the type of filmic citation at
3: Los olvidados
Pizza, birra, faso (2m 12s)
|Windows Media Format
culture and violence
My main conjecture here, however,
is that Pizza, birra, faso is linking the temporal dysphasia
of these kids, their sense of no past and no tomorrow, to the
culture of violence which pervades their lives, and I think we
shall find that this is a theme continued in the Colombian film
I shall now turn to.