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Something Old Something New Something Borrowed (Algo Viejo, Algo Nuevo, Algo Prestado)

The daughter of powerful sports betting lord investigates her father mysterious demise, in this at times inscrutable docufiction from Argentina - live from Cannes


We are warned at the very beginning of the story: “Don’t retrace your footsteps, or you may burn your feet and be left unable to walk”. Yet this is just what Maribel Felpeto (Mariana Felpeto) sets out to do. She watches videotapes of her childhood in the 1970s in the hope to understand what happened to her father Hugo Felpeto, a handsome young man running a very successful gambling business in suburban Buenos Aires. He is happily married to Alejandra Cánepa (Alejandra Cánepa), Maribel’s mother. The narrative arc is constructed upon Maribel’s desperate search for the truth. The tension builds as she raises the various possibilities: was her father murdered? Did her mother have anything to do with it? And do his surviving friends hold any information about the events that led to his premature demise?

Archive footage of the past is combined with present-day images, mostly with a hand-held camera. A jittery smart phone adds an extra touch of informality. The director keeps a respectable distance, as in a fly-on-the-wall, observational type of documentary. Maribel adopts a false identity in order to investigate the matter, and infiltrates some dangerous gang territory as part of her courageous task. She is aided by her friend Juliana and her paramour Leandro, also played by themselves. She eventually finds out what happened to her father, in a very surprising twist. Alejandra’s clumsy attempts to play a xylophone-sounding kind of keyboard punctuate the film. The score sounds a lot like a vintage music box, providing the movie with a very nostalgic atmosphere.

At first, it is impossible to determine whether the footage is real, and the present-day developments are real or staged. The director intentionally confounds viewers, as an effective piece of docufiction should. Even the film title suggests a multitude of narrative languages (the old, the new, and the invented are mixed seamlessly). This is Something Old Something New Something Borrowed‘s biggest strength. Gradually, it becomes clear that some of the secondary characters are played by actors, and that much – if not all – of the story in entirely made up. On the other hand, and almost certainly unintentionally, the storyline too confuses viewers. At times it is impossible to make heads or tails of the successive developments. A presumably allegorical ending serves only to stump viewers further. This is the movie’s most significant weakness. In other words, this is a hybrid film partly intoxicated by its own metalinguistic freedoms.

Something Old Something New Something Borrowed just premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 77th Festival de Cannes.

By Victor Fraga - 18-05-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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