Gastón Gallo’s directorial début “Gato negro” [Eng. Title: The Black Cat] is about a man’s dogged determination to break away from poverty and become a success story, and the price he’ll end up paying in the process.
We follow Tito Pereya from the time he’s a frustrated young boy growing up amidst sugarcane plantations and sugar mills in provincial Argentina of the nineteen fifties – where “nothing much happens”. With a stressed-out mother and an absent father, the only person he can connect with is his older brother Claudio, who’ll also be his best friend. But Tito is restless and raring to leave the village for good.
He’ll get that opportunity when his mother takes him to Buenos Aires where she’d just taken up job as a domestic servant. But to his dismay, she enrols him in a convent and leaves hastily, promising to visit him during the weekends, which she never did. An angry Tito refuses to fit in the convent and runs away with another boy. Together they survive doing odd-jobs in a different town, until he gets bored and returns home.
As a young man, he leaves for the city one more time, and takes up the only job he could get, as janitor in a garment factory. Determinedly, he works his way up, and before long will start his own business in import and export. His enterprise becomes successful by circumventing law on occasions, aided by his uncanny ability to charm, befriend and bribe the powers that be, whether civil or military.
Apart from seeking success, Tito wants to be seen to be successful too. He builds his family and also makes peace with his estranged mother, a gesture which by then has become little more than symbolic. He surrounds himself with wealth and worldly comforts to get noticed and acknowledged by friend and foe alike, which will invariably also spark jealousy in some circles…
While there’s nothing really unique about the film’s storyline – a tried and tested formula used the world over in various degrees of deviation, it’s a decent enough directorial début. Argentinians might relate to the film more readily than others due to its passing historical and cultural references. They have also made a serious effort at trying to accurately recreate various periods that the story spans. The performance of Luciano Cáceres in the lead role is pretty good, but the remaining cast fail to rise above the ordinary. Nevertheless, the film is entertaining and Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Leticia Brédice
She plays the love interest who’ll later become the wife of Tito Pereya, her character was probably inserted into the storyline as an afterthought with very little time for development. She appears briefly nude during her first make-out session with Tito in the office warehouse.