When ‘Rojo’ starts you would be forgiven for thinking someone had slipped on a vintage ’70s movie by mistake. The tobacco colour palette, dodgy hairdos and dubious fashions all scream the decade. But this is a newly made and clever period mystery from Argentinian director Benjamin Naishtat. It’s full of cryptic dead ends, many of which allude to historical events.
In the town where respectable lawyer Claudio (‘Talk to Her’s Darío Grandinetti) lives, families disappear and bodies mount up in the desert, but little touches his safe suburban life. That changes when an argument with an unstable stranger descends into violence. Left nursing a dying man, he has to make a choice: seek help or just dispose of the problem.
Most of this jet-black comedy deals with the fallout from that decision, as we edge closer to discovering the victim’s identity. But this is a world of skewed morals, and the lawyer is not our villain. We judge Claudio more for yelling at his wife because she needs to pee than for the other ethical choices he makes along the way.
Naishtat’s message is clear. Claudio is a flawed but redeemable man, but Argentina is broken. The director knows his subject matter: Naishtat’s grandmother was one of the disappeared and his father had to flee their home, which was later burnt to the ground. Perhaps that’s what makes this insightful black comedy about a lost time so poignant and precise.