Trenque Lauquen by Laura Citarella

Director Laura Citarella (b.1981) is not the only Laura involved in her bisected chronicle Trenque Lauquen; Laura is the central character played by Laura Parades, who is also the co-writer. And of course, Laura is the 1944 Otto Preminger film which begins, as this tale does, with a missing Laura. Citarella and Paredes—part of El Pampero Cine, the same Argentine collective that released Mariano Llinás’ sweeping, multi-genre epic La Flor (2018)—worked closely together for five years sculpting Trenque Lauquen into a dense, digressive, magical wilderness with a central character elusive in more ways than one.

It all begins with Laura’s boyfriend and her coworker Ezequiel attempting to unravel her disappearance by flashing back to the events that immediately preceded it. We find Laura temporarily transferred to the titular Argentinian town, where she is working as a biologist busy identifying and classifying plants while participating in a radio program about fascinating historical women, whose stories are often forgotten. During her library research, she makes an unusual, exciting discovery—of a decidedly non-Internet nature—and soon she and Ezequiel are obsessive sleuths unraveling another romantic mystery with a disappeared woman at the center. The tantalizing clues—messages in the margins, esoteric codes, erotic letters, faded photographs—lead further down unexpected, porous paths that variously overlap or sharply detour, but interrupt and redirect the arcs of all involved. As Laura’s observational, distanced approach to life folds in on itself, her motivations morph along with a plot that, by the second part, twists into slightly more supernatural shapes. With a patient tenderness, analog playfulness, strikingly dynamic soundtrack and an attentive exploration of Trenque Lauquen as a place that itself seems to exist in multiple timelines, Citarella’s cinematic chrysalis construes mystery as a revelatory activation and the urge to explore the unknown a source of pleasure and adventure in and of itself, rather than simply a problem to solve. Here, the mystery is both primal and intellectual, it is the journey and the destination, perhaps also the permission to seek something different, something unforeseeable, something unimaginable. – Brittany Gravely

The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome Laura Citarella to the HFA after the second part of Trenque Lauquen to discuss the puzzles, insights and delights of her extraordinary creation.