Circular Wood




Hello brother, it´s Sunday, seven o´clock in the afternoon and I just downed three whiskys in one go because since last night, it´s cold as hell, and today, under a sticky rain, I went to my old man´s house and what I saw there shattered me. You know what Walter Benjamin said about how soldiers who came back from World War I came back silent, not knowing how to adapt? Well, something like that happened to me today after seeing my old man.

Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin.
© TBD.
I hadn´t seen him for a week, more or less, but he had a very thick white beard and was wrapped up in a lot of sheets, blankets and other things on top of his bed. He was sleeping. Stacked around the bed were countless newspapers and magazines he´s been collecting since time immemorial. To be able to walk in his room and wake him up, you have to go rafting across those stacks of newspapers that are trapping him. My old man is wrapped up in a fierce nihilism. Nothing much matters to him. His friends from the Boedo neighbourhood are dead, it´s hard for him to go out at night to dance tango, and the cold of these months has sent him inward. I arrived, made him take a bath, shaved him, and cooked him some ravioli. We ate in silence. He showed me some collages he´s been making with stuff he cuts out of the papers and magazines he has in his room. They are pieces of circular wood - I don´t know where he got them - that is to say, they are the circular ruins, like in Borges´story, on which he glues pictures of models, chorus girls, CASLA players, friends of his and he incorporates snatches of sentences from the papers´ headlines; he makes them speak. Somehow he is making a definitive and savage art, which is art from the deepest solitude; it´s the farewell to Earth. At one point, he told me to go and get more honey candy and purchase him [pieces of] circular wood to continue with the collages. "Dad, today is Sunday, everything is closed, where am I going to buy circular wood? It´s impossible," I told him. "Ah, right, it´s Sunday," he said to me. He asked me if there was any match on TV and I told him that there weren´t any today.

© TBD.
Viggo, yesterday afternoon I watched the national team match, the one that, to me, Messi´s team won fair and square. While I was watching it, I thought that I would like to be able to watch all CASLA matches like this, quiet, enjoying the game, without getting nervous, but I can´t. When CASLA plays, I go crazy. However, as much as I try, with the Argentina national team, I don´t feel the same. Argentina is my country, but CASLA is my club and my club is my neighbourhood where I was born. I´m a patriot of the Boedo neighbourhood and nothing more.


Good morning, Cuervo. I´m writing to you from the woods. I will send you this answer when I return to town this afternoon, when I´ll be able to connect to the internet. Now I´m connecting with you. Tomorrow the shoot begins. We are undertaking an ambitious project. I will work almost the entire film with six "children" who are between six and eighteen years old, living together in a big "tipi," hunting deer and other animals, growing vegetables, living off nature. We have stacks of books, the "children" read Schopenhauer, Chomsky, Socrates, Einstein, Yeats, Shakespeare, Borges, and talk about all kinds of philosophy, science, poetry, etc. Their "mother" and I teach them, they don´t go to any other school, we don´t have TV. We play soccer, climb mountains, fish, swim, build our lives collectively and effectively, without disturbing anyone. We discuss things, everybody is entitled to an opinion, there´s no subject that cannot be covered. Our family is a true democracy, and the Socratic method prevails in all our activities. At the beginning of the story in this movie, it seems we have made the ideas behind Plato´s Republic tangible and functional. But the moment comes when we all have to come out of the woods, and the clash with modern society bring us problems of coexistence and a philosophical crisis. I´ll tell you more later.

The visit with your dad brings to mind similar moments with my parents, with my grandfather and other loved ones who have suffered what seems to us a fogginess, a loss of mental strength, a slow goodbye. I´m deeply sorry about what´s happening to your father, and above all, what it provokes in you. It´s hard not to get the same kind of communication, that relatively easy link we always had with these people we know and who know us so well. It´s hard, but it doesn´t mean that the possibility of understanding each other is lost, even when there are no words left and absent looks stray over to the curtains or into the darkness. These [pieces of] circular wood your old man requires... I think that´s what we are, different circles of wood that roll or don´t, that can be painted or decorated, that are young and flexible or dry and fragile, but they remain round pieces of wood, fragments of big trees that always grew and will continue growing, that can make us remember and smell the forests and planks of our childhood. I love you, brother.

Since I have in mind thoughts and feelings connected to our parents, and at the same time, the cinematographic challenge I have ahead of me right now, I recall a thing that the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni said:

"Hollywood is like being nowhere talking to nobody about nothing."

In this rather depressing quote from the creator of The Girl Friends, Eclipse, The Adventure and The Passenger, among other films, I would replace the word "Hollywood" by the word "Living." We have the opportunity, but never the obligation, to make sense of life, to try to speak to any person anywhere about something that help us understand each other.

I see that after our last chat you tried to get excited about the World Cup and the national team, but you didn´t manage to feel the passion that the Ciclón give you. I understand you. As we have said so many times, San Lorenzo is a unique and deep feeling, a feeling we will always share. It´s not the same, but I like the World Cup for the drama it has, the theatre - not always good but almost always interesting on a sociological, human level - that it shows us. Germany will play against Brazil in the first semi-final, and I think that the South American brothers are going to suffer in that match, unless luck with the referees and patriotism is with them. I don't think the host's patriotism is going to throw the Germans. The Germans are very professional and they'll come out to control the game from the get-go, with their nerves under control. Even with Neymar, if he could play, I think the Germans would be the superior team. I would like to see a final between Argentina and Brazil, but I don't have confidence that the Green and Yellow will be able to advance. They've already gone far with a fairly mediocre team. Argentina's not going to have it easy with Holland either, a national team that has demonstrated in this tournament that they have a lot of grit and a good passing game. Van Gaal, the head coach of the Orange, is very sharp and on Wednesday, he's going to present a team that's tactically and psychologically well-prepared. If Di María doesn't play, Messi's going to have to carry the team on his shoulders again, but it has to be said that Sabella did very well in the quarter final against Belgium. The defence was impeccable and the Belgians almost never got to Romero's posts. Demichelis was a good bet in that game and I think the team is going to hold onto a fairly good collective rhythm. It's about time. Let's see if the semi-finals give us some beautiful soccer, two high level games and clean play. Clean play doesn't seem to interest the Grondona family and their buddies much. Did you see the report in Olé? Scalped tickets have appeared in the name of the Grondonas and Humberto defended himself. Barrabravas with tickets from the AFA. [tr. note: Argentine Soccer Association and Julio Humberto Grondona is president of the AFA.]

Alfredo Di Stéfano, the great player and coach (he was head coach of the Boca champions of 1969 and the River Plate line-up of 1981), died. I've only seen him play in the black and white films that can be found on the internet where he appears with Real Madrid and with the Spanish national team. There in those old video recordings, one can see that Di Stéfano had an extraordinary facility with the ball and an intelligence for "reading" the pitch and taking the measure of the opposing team. Sometimes it seems that he has one more gear, as if he came from another world to transmit instructions for playing soccer in a different way, with more freedom of movement and mathematical astuteness - like Maradona, Pelé or Cruyff in their moments of glory or like Messi now. This is what Javier Marías wrote today in El País about "La Saeta Rubia" [the Blond Arrow], as they called Don Alfredo:

Di Stefano, with two balls, in June 1956 in Paris
Di Stefano, with two balls, in June 1956 in Paris.
© AFP.
Javier Marías writes very well. I don´t know if it's the best that will be said about Di Stéfano this week, but I like this writer's point of view about the great legend of Real Madrid. Nor do I know if it's the best Di Stéfano video, but I'm sending you a link with 64 of his goals and some other plays of his in Spain.

Today I listened to the World Cup semi-final between Germany and Brazil and just now, after returning from the shoot, I saw the re-transmission of the match on the hotel TV. I don't know if you could see it. As I told you, to me Brazil seemed weak in this tournament. I'm not surprised that the Germans won, but the number of goals that they made did surprise me. The Chelsea head coach, José Mourinho, who told the media yesterday that Brazil was going to win the World Cup ("I think that the end of the story will be Brazil as champion of the world, because they are giving it their all for the competition and for their country") looks a little ridiculous now. I suppose that the megalomaniac from Setúbal will join in with those who are ripping Scolari after the defeat against Germany. It could be that someday we'll see Mou training the national team of Portugal (or Brazil or England, who knows?), but for now, he needs to control his envy and his craving to be the star.

Tomorrow I´ll try to get away from the shoot whenever I can to watch the other semi-final between Argentina and Holland. I think Argentina can win, but it will be a very tough challenge. I want Messi and his teammates to be able to play the final against the Germans to have the chance to revenge the World Cup defeat of 2010 at the hands of Löw´s team.

© TBD.
P.S. We are going to the Final! I was filming today in the woods, but the producer loaned me a gadget that brings you the game live in some way (very mysterious to me) and allows you to see it perfectly even if there´s no [internet] coverage. I missed some moments, but between our takes and when they were changing the camera locations, I could see a lot of what happened. The penalty shootouts (that I hate so much) smiled on us this time. Romero was amazing there, keeping the Albiceleste's [tr. note: nickname for Argentine national team] dream intact. During regulation time, Mascherano crushed it in a thousand pieces, like a warrior of old.

If not for him, Robben would have scored at least one goal. That Dutchman is very dangerous, but since he dives all the time, he makes me a bit sick. He also hogs the ball too much. I don´t know if Mascherano should have gone back in immediately after the knock-out he suffered in the clash with Wijnaldum - it seems to me that FIFA should take better care of the player's skull, take extra precautions after such a blow - but the truth is that the Barcelona defender played a great match all over the pitch.

© TBD.
We stopped filming to see the penalty shots, there in that lovely place, with some of the crew watching the tiny screen with me to see why I was making a thousand anxious turns around the pine under which we were watching the device. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the English commentary that came out of the gadget bringing us images from São Paulo could be heard very quietly. When I shouted at the top of my lungs after Maxi Rodriguez's goal, "Hold on Argentina!!! Now Germany, you motherfuckers!," my filming companions stood there astonished. None of those present spoke Spanish. When the young actors who play my children in the movie asked me for an explanation, I told them that the phrase had no translation. And then I calmed down and continued filming our scene, a fairly serious moment in our story. It was hard to hide the relief and happiness I felt but in the end, I could cover up the smile that was blooming inside me and we could do things well. By luck and with the director's blessing, I'd put a national team shirt next to me during what we were shooting. I don't know if it'll be visible in the movie, but it accompanied us and the emblem was lucky for us.

© Viggo Mortensen.
By the way, we're filming in a beautiful area. This is the route to work this week:

© Viggo Mortensen.
I would have preferred that Argentina and Holland would have played until making a real goal, but of course, I'm for the Argentine victory by penalty shots and the chance that it gives them to fight for the championship against Germany. Almost everyone considers the Germans the clear favorites and that could bring a certain calm to the Argentine national team. The Europeans will have the pressure. The hosts must be suffering even more than yesterday seeing Argentina has reached the final in Maracaná today. If Messi and his buddies win the Cup on Sunday, I don't want to imagine how they'll feel in Brazil.

Romero puts Argentina in the final
Romero puts Argentina in the final.
© TBD.
P.P.S.: Did you see that Pitu Barrientos is coming back to San Lorenzo? That's good news! It's just a short time until the semi-final that's most important to us...

© TBD.

Hi, Viggo. Today, at the bank when I went to withdraw some money, the security guy who is a sick Cuervo - like you and I - showed me the photo on his phone where the two of us were holding the poster in Cannes, asking for the Cup. He told me, "I can't wait for this World Cup to end and for us to win the Libertadores." I told him I felt the same way.

© TBD.
At the beginning, yesterday was a bright, sunny day. I got up at six in the morning to take Rita for a run in the park. Later I met up with my brother, Juan, and we went to my old man's house to recondition the room, clean the house and along with an electrician friend, put in a new heater and lighting system so he could read without setting fire with a spark to the room he has made his nest. Although he didn't like it much, we took out millions of magazines, newspapers, sketches, advertisements, notebooks with texts written by him, unidentified objects, a dildo (sexual object that he probably uses with the old ladies with whom he danced the tango), empty packets of Viagra, aspirins, bags of all kinds, leftover food in a state of putrefaction. We swept the place, changed all his clothes, rearranged the furniture, threw out a broken refrigerator that he had on the patio, I don't know why, and a huge armchair that was destroyed. In the middle of all this stuff, we found a book of mine with a dedication I'd made to him. Later we took him to lunch and we ate at a Cuervo bar around the corner from the house. There I had the first shock of the day. I met up with two Boedo friends that I hadn't seen for almost 20 years and they were very important in my adolescence. When I hugged them, I surprised myself by crying. The three of us hugged each other a lot. Everyone was wearing CASLA clothes - I a sweatshirt, them t-shirts, my brother a San Lorenzo windbreaker and my old man his CASLA sweatshirt. Anyway, after leaving my old man sleeping in his house, I came back to mine, changed my dirty clothes (post tenebras lux) [tr.note: Latin for "After darkness, light"] and went to see the match at Guada's mom´s. This time I got nervous. It was a chess match, very measured, in which Argentina came off well as a team. Compact, without depending so much on Messi although it´s he who has to almost always make the difference. In any case, I think that even when he doesn´t crush it, he has a gravitational field that prevents the opposing team from getting loose; there's a difference when he's playing or not playing. I think that for Germany, Argentina is the worst opponent. And for the Brazilians, it's the continuation of this World Cup nightmare that never should have been played there.


Please, give your dad a kiss. I hope I can see him in October when we present Jauja in Buenos Aires with Lisandro. We could go with your old man to the pizzeria San Antonio if you like?

© TBD.
I´m fed up with people who say Messi is disappointing in this World Cup. Even the 1978 World Cup striker, Mario Kempes, jumped on the wagon, saying that "Argentina´s 10 has to appear." Don´t they see that Messi drags 3 or 4 players from the other team all over the pitch, and in spite of that, he continues unsettling the opponent and feeding Argentina´s attack? Don´t they see that he always has to go through a maze of kicks and elbows every time he sets off with the ball - and that he doesn´t spend the whole match moaning about the bashing he gets, as so many other well-known weeping forwards do? Don´t they see the passes he makes, the goal plays that Lionel sets up with the extraordinary mind he has for this sport? Have they already forgotten that without his goals, they would not have come out of the initial group phase? Sabella does well by putting him farther back and using what he has from the team to prevent attacks by the opponent in Romero's area. In the last two Argentina matches, he made it very difficult for Belgium and Holland, two good attack teams that hardly managed to shoot at the Argentine goal. The most beautiful thing is that this National Team is a TEAM.

© TBD.
When someone is missing the match (like Agüero in the first two matches or Di María yesterday), or isn't sharp that day, others contribute what they have. One day Romero does it or Higuaín, another Mascherano, another El Pocho [tr. note: nickname for Lavazzi], or Biglia, or Demichelis, or the guy from Mendocino, Enzo Pérez who very respectably replaced Di María, etc. Messi always contributes something positive. It's a team in which everyone has balls and Messi celebrates that. He's not an egotistical player. He's not a theatrical one who throws himself on the ground all the time like Arjen Robben, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suárez and so many other crack players. He's a man of his word and a good teammate who loves his [team] shirt. I hope that La Pulga [tr. note: "the flea," a nickname for Messi] scores four goals against Germany Sunday and that he throws up to his heart's content after each one. [Tr. note: Messi has a habit of vomiting periodically both on and off the field and says he doesn't know why, nor do any doctors. His coach thinks it's nerves.]
Last edited: 1 August 2014 10:00:21