El Custodio is almost pathological in its compositional marginalization of protagonist Ruben (Julio Chavez), an Italian government minister’s bodyguard who’s so disconnected from those around him that he occupies only a subsidiary role in his own life. Argentinean director Rodrigo Moreno rigorously employs doorways as confining framing devices, using them as a means of highlighting both Ruben’s detachment from those he’s charged with protecting (via glimpses of the minister and his family’s private actions spied through half-opened entrances) as well as his inherent smallness and powerlessness (via claustrophobic visual arrangements). This last point is also conveyed by aerial shots that reduce him to a mere speck on an asphalt driveway, as well as by the film’s strict adherence to Ruben’s point of view, which captures, for example, the embarrassment he feels when the minister (Osmar Nunez) asks him to entertain poolside guests with sketch portraits (like some kind of party clown), and then he passively stands by as the group lightly mocks him in impenetrable French. El Custodio‘s portrait of Ruben’s daily routines, which are carried out amid random snippets of other people’s conversations, exhibits an unwavering interest in mundane activities. Such attention to routines, however, eventually borders on the one-note, a situation that’s only partly alleviated by Moreno’s juxtaposition of Ruben’s quiet, isolated professional life with his noisy, hectic private one involving a crazy sister (Cristina Villamor), an untalented singer niece (Luciana Lifschitz), and trips to an illegal arms dealer and local whore. An early image that cuts off Ruben’s head as he’s cleaning and assembling his gun while the minister sleeps next door—a sight that casts him as an armed man who’s lost his head—is a sly tip-off that the story’s low simmer will eventually escalate to a scalding boil. And Chavez smoothly aids this narrative design by lacing his character’s stoicism with barely suppressed frustration. Yet while avoiding traditional Hollywood action interludes gives it an ascetic purity, El Custodio‘s refusal to offset its solemnity with any measure of lightheartedness—save, that is, for an amusing bit involving Ruben, a prostitute, and the prostitute’s elderly, considerate mother—eventually leads it to emulate the monotony of Ruben’s existence a little too precisely.
- 95 min
- Rodrigo Moreno
- Rodrigo Moreno
- Julio Chavez, Osmar Nunez, Marcelo D'Andrea, Elvira Onetto, Cristina Villamor, Luciana Lifschitz, Osvaldo Djeredjian
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