Julieta Cardinali, a radiant young Argentinean actress, visited Dallas recently to promote her new film, Alejandro Agresti’s “Valentin,” which is being released in this country by Miramax. The period comedy-drama, which has autobiographical overtones, centers on a young boy (Rodrigo Noya) who attempts to play matchmaker for his divorced father (Agresti); Cardinali plays Leticia, whom Valentin tries to persuade to become his new mother, with unexpected results.
When asked whether she was like Leticia, Cardinali said, “For Leticia, everything is inside. When the boy speaks to her, she listens but she doesn’t talk too much. That’s not my case. I talk a lot, and I speak out what I think. I think Leticia is a more reserved person. She’s sweet, though. Me, too. I’m joking.”
There were some similarities, Cardinali noted, between the time in which the story is set and the circumstances in which it was filmed. “The film is set in ’69, and at that time we had a repressive military government,” she said. One sequence in the picture, in which a priest’s sermon against the regime causes his frightened parishioners to abandon their pews, points to the atmosphere of the time. Argentina has been a functioning democracy for decades, but as Cardinali recalled, a different kind of turmoil forced a hiatus in the film’s shooting schedule. “We started in December two years ago,” she explained, “and we shot for three weeks. Then we had to stop because our president resigned and the country was in a mess. It was impossible to shoot. The banks were closed, so we couldn’t get the money out of the bank to shoot the film. Really, it was a disaster. We had to stop for two months to wait for the country to calm down. Then we started again and shot for three more weeks. So it was six weeks [in all]. It was a very difficult time for us in Argentina.” Happily, she said, the problems this time around were purely economic, and were democratically resolved. “The country is very hopeful with a new president,” she said. And she noted that government support for the entertainment industry has helped bring about a vibrant industry in film and television.
Cardinali spoke glowingly of little Noya, her then seven-year-old co-star on whom the success of the film largely depended, calling him “a totally natural actor…I thought, well he has a huge responsibility with the film because he is the film, he’s the narrator of the film. I thought maybe he’d get nervous and forget the lines. But nothing of that [kind] happened. He was fantastic. He was having so much fun with the film while he was doing the film. He was enjoying [it]–he was playing. It was great with him, because he was so natural that it made it easier for us.”
Newcomer Noya, Cardibali recalled, was selected for the role through an audition. “He goes to the casting, and there were these little boys–like blond, pretty,” she said, laughing. “He’s cross-eyed–he’s like that, he has that eye problem, and he was [wearing] his glasses. And he was the last one in the audition, and when he ended the audition, it was Agresti in the audition, and he told him, ‘If you are not too expensive, you are the one.’” The boy has since caught the acting bug. Cardinali has done another film with him, also directed by Agresti, following “Valentin.” “He said that he only wanted to do movies,” she recalled with a smile. “He [said], ‘I want to do movies because I love cinema.’”
Cardinali also began her career at a very young age. “When I was nine or ten, I studied ballet and I wanted to be a ballerina,” she said. “It didn’t work. And then when I was thirteen, I started on a TV show for kids, dancing. It was a very popular show. Then I started drama and had my first TV program,” about school life. She went on to do more television before teaming with Agresti to make her film debut in “A Night With Sabrina Love,” about a teen who wins a date with a famous porn star in a contest. “Agresti lived in Holland for, like, sixteen years. But the producer of that first film, he knew me because of my work, and he called me and talked to me. I read the script and said, ‘Yes, fantastic–I want to do it.’ And then I met Agresti and started shooting the film. I’ve done three with him [now].” But she works regularly with other filmmakers as well, mostly in dramas “because,” as she joked, “I’m a drama queen. But I like comedy, too.”
Agresti’s “Valentin” is a bit of both.