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    Actor Chino Darín Discusses His Queer Atmospheric Crime Film El Angel

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The stylish Argentine crime drama El Angel, opening November 16 in the Bay Area, recounts the robbery and murder spree of baby-faced Carlos (Lorenzo Ferro), a teenager in 1971 Buenos Aires who became the longest serving criminal in the country’s history. The film, co-written and directed by Luis Ortega, recounts several of Carlos’ crimes, many of which he committed with a classmate he was attracted to, Ramón (Chino Darín).

    On the phone from Buenos Aires, Darín explained the teens’ intense friendship: “I think Ramón is magnetized by Carlos because Carlos is younger and weaker than he is—but seeing Carlos, everything Ramón believes being a man in the 1970s is, is changed. He can’t understand that Carlos has this freedom to live in the moment. When he sees Carlos, Ramón knows Carlos is someone.”

    The actors studied and emulated American buddy movies from the 1970s to get a sense of how their characters moved, and even smoked. They used their bodies to capture the feeling of the era. Argentina, at that time, was on the brink of dictatorship, and the country’s social and political environment was undergoing tremendous change. That backdrop, along with the period music, costumes and cars, informs the atmospheric film.

    El Angel depicts the teen’s success robbing a gun shop, which leads them to burgle a jewelry store. There is a palpable homoerotic tension between the two youths, most notably in a scene that has Carlos covering a naked and sleeping Ramón’s genitals with the jewels they just stole. Ramón also allows Federica (William Prociuk), a gay art dealer, to orally service him with the expectation that he will fence the boys’ loot. Ramón also hopes Federica will help him to fulfill his dreams of becoming an actor.

    Darín believes that Ramón uses his looks and sexuality to get what he wants from others, but the attractive actor is not so quick to identify either teen in El Angel as gay. He observed, “People are trying to label Ramon and Carlos’ sexuality. And one of the nice things about this story is that they are two guys who have their own kind of sexuality. I wouldn’t define them as homosexual, bisexual or with any labels. Fluid would be the most accurate term. Ramón, particularly, is a sexual mercenary. I like to see him like that. He uses his sexuality as a resource.”

    Ramón does get quite violent in a bar when someone calls him “a fag.” The character’s undefined sexuality may be part of his larger identity crisis. (Sexual deviance is cited as a reason for Carlos’ sociopathy.) However, Ramón does not have much ambition, which may be why he hooks up with Carlos—for a sense of adventure. The actor acknowledged, “Ramon feels his parents are disappointed with him, and that he’s not fully realized in his life. He’s searching for his path and doesn’t have a clue about what he should do in life. Ramón wants to be famous. He uses the robberies to be recognized by his father, but when Carlos enters the scene, he’s a natural born thief, and Ramon can’t compete with that.”

    Darín is very aware of parental expectations. His father, Ricardo Darín, is a superstar in Argentine cinema. The young actor explained that he originally never intended to go into the family business. “I grew up with lots of freedom—freedom of thought and physical freedom. I was going to study engineering after I finished high school. I liked physics and chemistry. I didn’t know what to be and I thought engineering was a good thing to study. When I announced this to my father, he gave me an exercise: think of my future doing whatever engineers do for firms, or quality testing, and if I saw myself happy in that, to go on. So, I moved to acting.”

    Films have been a good choice for the actor who has developed quite a following in Argentina. Hopefully, El Angel will get Darín wider exposure in the States. He also appears in Death in Buenos Aires, a gay-tinged detective thriller that has recently been released on home video in the U.S.

    When asked about his career and the films he makes, which include Primavera, a gay-themed romantic comedy, Darín demurred, “I change a lot. I don’t get bored, but I am very restless. I like to play lots of different characters. I like diversity. I think that sometimes I am refreshed when I move from drama to comedy and look for different parts. I don’t like to do the same thing. I’m young, so I’m proving myself. I am looking for more difficult projects to see what I can do. I’m on that path, and I will be on that path forever. I’m like Ramón. I don’t know what my thing is yet.”

    © 2018 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer