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With its grand architecture, cobblestone streets, nostalgic cafes and colourful neighbourhoods, each with its own character, Buenos Aires has provided an atmospheric setting for many a movie, from arthouse gems to Hollywood blockbusters. Here are a few to watch ahead of your trip, and the locations to look out for during your stay.
Start with a crash course in the local slang, lunfardo, ahead of your trip with Nine Queens (2000), an internationally acclaimed Argentine crime drama about two con artists (Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls) who join forces for a major scam. The film acts almost as a guide book to the city’s downtown neighbourhoods, with many scenes shot in Puerto Madero, Montserrat, San Nicolás and Retiro, where the pair of hustlers have a meeting in the fabulous Art Deco Kavanagh Building - South America’s first skyscraper. The atmospheric bar that Ricardo Darín’s character uses as his “office” is La Tasca de Fosforito (Hipólito Yrigoyen 1218), an old tavern famous for its generous portions.
Argentina’s most successful film to date internationally, The Secret in Their Eyes, which won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2010, was filmed entirely in and around Buenos Aires. Locations include the grandiose Retiro train station and the Palace of Justice, but the most dramatic moment of the film is a tense chase scene that takes place at Huracán football club’s Estadio Tomás Ducó. This classic stadium with its distinctive Art Deco transmission tower is known as “El Palacio” because it was seen as so luxurious when it opened and makes a great visit for soccer fans.
Is it really possible to blend dance with a hardboiled action thriller? Robert Duvall set out to do just that in Assassination Tango (2002), a project that became a personal passion for the US actor, himself a keen tango dancer. Telling the story of a hitman who starts to learn to dance tango, and co-starring Duvall’s wife, the Argentine actress Luciana Pedraza, the film was shot at locations throughout the city. Some of the dance scenes were filmed at the traditional neighbourhood milonga where Duvall himself learned to dance - Sin Rumbo in Villa Urquiza
It took a lot of persuasion and caused much controversy, but in 1996 the then president of Argentina finally gave in and allowed Madonna to film on the presidential balcony at the Casa Rosada for the scene where she sings “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” in Alan Parker’s film of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Evita. You can step out onto the balcony yourself on the guided tours of the Casa Rosada offered at regular intervals on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
With its high ceilings and big tables, Centro Montañes, the restaurant belonging to the Cantabrian community club in the neighbourhood of Colegiales, has caught the attention of several directors, most notably Juan José Campanella who used it as the restaurant run by Ricardo Darín’s character in the romantic comedy Son of the Bride (2001). The club was founded by Cantabrian immigrants in 1923 and offers sports and cultural activities as well as a restaurant famous for its Spanish cuisine.
The Godfather director found the perfect location for his noirish 2008 drama Tetro in the cobblestone streets of San Telmo and La Boca. Locations such as Bar Británico and the traditional tenement house where Vincent Gallo’s character lives give an atmosphere of nostalgia to this tale of sibling rivalry. Demonstrating that Buenos Aires is always a city of contrasts, comedy crime-drama Focus (2015) starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie found another side of the same neighbourhoods - showing La Boca, San Telmo as well as Barracas and Puerto Madero as modern, sophisticated and cosmopolitan.
Grab some popcorn from a street vendor and head out to enjoy Buenos Aires' cinematic locations!
See more about culture in Buenos Aires.