Southern Border | Chicago Reader

Southern Border

Gerardo Herrero's 1998 saga of a Spanish immigrant rising to wealth and power in Buenos Aires is a curious albeit entertaining mix of racy melodrama and socialist hokum, with a supernatural twist that serves as the story's deus ex machina. Roque (Jose Coronado) arrives in the Argentinean port city in the late 1800s, just as it's about to boom, and schemes his way to the top with the counsel of a prescient ghost (Federico Luppi) and a hard-edged but pure-hearted madam (Maribel Verdu). Yet he always has time to help the downtrodden, and using his friendships with both the riffraff and the nouveau riche, Herrero (Comanche Territory) paints a colorful cross section of the populace and politics that transformed Buenos Aires into a dynamic metropolis by the end of the century. Despite some soap-opera flourishes and over-the-top acting, the film exudes an earthy, ribald spirit that's as seductive as the anthemic tango tunes on its sound track.

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