The Magic Lantern

Hosted ByEricca Long and Cole Roulain

Exploring the films we love and the things we love about them.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 113 – Los Tallos Amargos

Film noir simply doesn’t get darker than Fernando Ayala’s Los Tallos Amargos (1956). And when I say dark, I mean classical tragedy dark. Dostoevsky levels of wretched darkness. I have never seen a noir quite like this. It has all the normal chiaroscuro and double cross, but it goes much deeper into the psychology of our main character than we are often used to in the genre. His ambitions, his insecurities, his dreams, his mother, his father, his lover – it’s all grist for Ayala’s shadowy mill. And it’s a mill that indiscriminately grinds everyone, the naively loyal and the cunningly homicidal alike.

Not only is Los Tallos Amargos one of the greatest entries in the international noir canon, but it’s also a triumph of film sleuthing and restoration. It traveled a long way and endured a lot of hardships to make it back to us. It was on the verge of oblivion before the efforts of Eddie Muller, the Film Noir Foundation, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust brought it back from the brink. It’s certainly a worthy candidate for that attention and treatment. This film changed the way I look at film noir. I hope you get the chance to see it and it does the same for you.

What you’ll find in this episode: the impressive pedigree of Los Tallos Amargos, oppression and censorship in Argentina, films falling prey to neglect and ruin, Silver Condors, vultures, and bitter stems.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Los Tallos Amargos on IMDB
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Spellbound.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Carancho.
A list to get you started with Argentine film.
A promotional video of beautiful Buenos Aires in the 1950s.