The Weasel’s Tale Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Once upon a time, forty years ago, Mara Ordaz (Graciela Borges) was the legend of Argentinean black and white cinema. Everyone knew her, she was a real star and social diva. Mara even won an Oscar statuette, and she was the second after Sophia Loren to receive this award for her role in a non-English film.

But that was in ancient times, and now no one remembers Mara, she lives out her days in a large house located in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, in the company of her husband Pedro (Luis Brandoni), director of his films Norberto (Oscar Martinez) and screenwriter his films Martin (Marcos Mandstock).

Pedro, a former actor paralyzed after a car accident, spends his days in a wheelchair painting and sculpting clay sculptures. Norberto and Martin, who have had nothing to do with cinema for a long time, drink wine, fight chess and play billiards. Norberto also amuses himself by periodically shooting rats with a double-barreled shotgun.

Mara carefully looks after herself and puts on lush outfits from her past life every day, and spends her time mostly reminiscing about the past: watching her films, reading newspaper clippings and repeating her triumph – the Oscar speech. The figurine, of course, stands in a place of honor right in front of the main entrance to the house.

And Mara also has fun arguing with the male part of the inhabitants of the house: the director and screenwriter have not had any respect for the former film star for a long time, they are annoyed by her extravagance, and Mara is angry that they live in her house and allow themselves to tell her all sorts of nasty things.

Well, in general, not to say that they are having such a great time – rather, all four just live out their lives, realizing that they have nothing to expect from life. But suddenly the smooth course of their life is disturbed by an unexpected event.

One day, a car drove up to the house with two young people – this is a polished man, whose name is Francisco (Nicolas Francella), and a spectacular woman named Barbara (Clara Lago). They ask permission to make a phone call to Buenos Aires – mobile phones are not picked up, and they have an important meeting in their city – but a group of three suspicious old men are in no hurry to satisfy their request, but then Mara comes out of the house, and quite by accident (or not at all by chance) ) it turns out that both Francisco and Barbara not only recognized the former screen star, but also watched all the films with her: they pronounce the names of the films, Francisco quotes Mara’s Oscar speech.

Of course, Senora Ordaz completely softened, allowed young people to call on the phone, and then Francisco and Barbara started a conversation with the old woman about whether she wanted to sell the house – you can get a whole million for it – buy an apartment in Buenos Aires and start come out again.

Why not want something? Senora Ordaz really wants this, she is terribly tired of cuckooing in this huge house in the company of a sarcastic trinity of men. But at the same time, of course, when she moves to the city, she absolutely does not intend to settle in the new apartment of Norberto and Martin.

And then Norberto, Martin and Pedro, who has absolutely no desire to move to the city, will have to figure out how to make sure that Mara does not sell this house.

***

The director of this film, Juan José Campanella, is known for directing the acclaimed film “The Secret in His Eyes” in 2009, for which he received an Oscar in the category “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year”. After that, he did not make feature films for a long time, being content with staging TV series (by the way, he worked as a director in the TV series Studio 30, House M.D., Law & Order, Stop and Catch Fire, and others).

And now, ten years after “The Secret in His Eyes”, the director released the film “Kings of Intrigue”, which in the original is called El Cuento de las Comadrejas, which, most likely, should be translated as “The Story of the Slick”, because la comadreja – this is actually a weasel animal, but it is often used in the meaning of “slick”.

Interestingly, this is a remake of a very old and quite famous Argentine film Los muchachos de antes no usaban arsénico (“Guys never used arsenic before”) directed by José A. Martínez Suárez. It was released in 1976, but it was in this year that a military coup took place and a very terrible period in the history of Argentina began, which was called the “Dirty War” (in fact, there are references to this period in the film “The Secret in His Eyes”), therefore, in the year of release, no one paid attention to the film, but later it became very popular and, in fact, a cult.

The plot is very similar. Film diva Mara Ordaz (names of all the main characters are taken from the original film), who has not been filmed for a long time and whom everyone has forgotten, lives in a big house with her husband Pedro (he uses a wheelchair and paints pictures), Norberto’s former doctor and former administrator (assistant) Martin. Moreover, Mara Ordaz is played by the actress Mecha Ortiz, who began acting in black and white films, and her first film was called Los muchachos de antes no usaban gomina (“The boys didn’t use grease before”): it is obvious that Suarez used this name for his movie.

Mara Ordaz, tired of living in the same house with these three men, wants to sell the house, and she is helped in this by a realtor – a young woman named Laura. Well, three dashing old men are taking various actions in order to prevent this.

The old film was quite black humorous and mostly based on dialogue, showing a complex war of the sexes, with the three old men clearly showing certain signs of misogyny and getting Mara very specifically.

Interestingly, this film has been preserved and can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube (in Spanish).

Why Juan José Campanella decided to remake this film (it’s clearly stated that it’s a remake, because the script writers of the old film, Augusto Giustozzi and José A. Martínez Suárez, are credited as writers besides Campanella) is not known for certain, but he hasn’t directed in ten years feature films, so he probably didn’t have any other ideas.

And he didn’t even change some things from the old film, although 43 years have passed since the release of the original film, so Campanella has Mara Ordaz also an actress in black and white films, while the entourage of events in the film is clearly modern, judging by the car of realtors and other signs. But, by the way, we remember that “Only Girls in Jazz” is 1959, and black-and-white films were still being shot in the sixties. So the stretch is very conditional, but according to the films that Mara watches, it is rather about the thirties of the last century.

What happened to Campanella? Stylish, funny, with a good game of actors, both senior and young, but not without obvious flaws: firstly, it is noticeably long (for half an hour it could definitely be chopped off with obvious benefit for perception), and secondly, with a somewhat strange gloomy humorous about the director’s and screenwriter’s wives who have gone nowhere (this was also taken from an old film, but it still looked different there), well, with a completely buffoonish resolution of the whole situation.

That is, there is some discrepancy between the balance of a seemingly interesting life story – an elderly film star in the company of cunning old men and two vile realtors who want to buy a house – and rather sharp exaggerations in plot twists in the form of a specific black humor buffoonery.

However, I have never regretted watching this film. The acting work is very good. Maru was played by almost eighty-year-old Graciela Borges – in general, the legendary actress for Argentina, who starred in 65 films and TV shows. Here is a photo of her from the 70s.

Here Graciela plays great! Manners, arguing with other men, living memories, revisiting your films, experiencing the Oscars over and over again – it’s just super! Moreover, the director also shot a completely gorgeous episode, as Mara, watching her old film, sorts things out with her husband Pedro, and there her on-screen heroine is superimposed on the current Mara – it was very well done, here is a frame from this episode.

Three cunning old men – these are famous and eminent Argentine actors – Brandoni, Martinez and Mandstock – are also very good, each in his own way!

Nicholas Francella and Clara Lago were responsible for the young lush growth. I had never seen Francelle before, but I really liked him – everything was like clockwork: a refined and supposedly very kind realtor playing his game: he needs to get a plot that he will build up with apartments. Well, you understand: the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the city is expanding, all this is growing in price. By the way, Francella is very reminiscent of Ryan Gosling.

I know Clara Lago very well – she is a very famous actress and model in Spain, she played in the cult Spanish film “Eight Basque Surnames”, she also played in a very good Argentinean-Spanish thriller “At the End of the Tunnel”.

Here she also has a good role: a kind of young self-confident bitch, who, of course, has no doubt that she will easily circle these funny old men around her finger. But there is still the question of who, whom and where will circle.

In general, not a masterpiece even once, one might say, not necessarily, but I looked with pleasure. If only it could be shortened by half an hour – it would be quite good.

PS In United States, this film was not licensed, it is not available in United Statesn streaming services. You can find it here with a polyphonic professional (as they say) voiceover. I listened – yes, and it was decently translated, and voiced with dignity, this should not spoil your impression.

El Cuento de las Comadrejas / The Weasel’s Tale movie review

Directed by: Juan José Campanella Cast: Graciela Borges, Oscar Martinez, Luis Brandoni, Marcos Mandstock, Clara Lago, Nicolas Francella, Luz Cypriota, Maru Zapata, Anwar Yoma, Manuel Martinez Sobrado

Black humor tragicomedy, Argentina-Spain, 2019, 129 min.

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