The author of this collection of essays, Alberto Ciria, is well known for his work on the history of twentieth-century Argentine politics. Here he adds personal reminiscences and his passion for the movies to political and cultural analysis in an interesting melange that is sometimes a bit too charming.

The book is arranged on the conceit that the essays are like films which make up a cinema bill. Ciria begins with a short subject, “Lo que el cine me enseñó.” His approach is deliberately personal, even autobiographical, beginning with memories of his own childhood, growing up after the 1930s in a Buenos Aires apartment building on the ground floor of which was a movie theater specializing in Spanish films. Ciria’s interest in films was encouraged by his father (who took him to see Spanish films), his mother and aunt (who preferred Argentine productions), his uncle (who was most interested in those from Hollywood), and, later, by friends (with whom he discovered French, Italian, Mexican, German, and Soviet cinematography).

In the book’s first major section, and feature presentation, Ciria analyzes the Aries film production company through a reading of selected films made between 1956 and 1991, with special attention to the content and context of El jefe (1958), La fiaca (1968), La Patagonia rebelde (1974), Plata dulce (1982), and La noche de los lápices (1986), as well as a few picaresque comedies and police thrillers.

The next two essays (coauthored with Jorge M. López) fall under the title “Intervalo.” Each provides a quick examination of the work and context of an internationally renowned Argentine film maker: Leopoldo Torre Nilsson (1924-78) and María Luisa Bemberg (1922-95).

The second major essay focuses on the aesthetics of the Argentine film industry and the world market constraints it confronted from 1983 to 1989. Ciria includes tables on foreign and domestic films’ relative shares of the Argentine market and on the numbers of spectators who attended screenings of the most popular Argentine productions. These include not only films such as Camila (1984), La historia oficial (1985), and Sur (1988) that were acclaimed by foreign critics, but domestically popular productions like Los Parchís contra el inventor invisible (1981), Los colimbas se divierten (1986), and Rambito y Rambón, primera misión (1986). Unfortunately, since these totals seem to be summed strictly on the basis of calendar years, the totals do not accurately reflect the aggregate audience and relative ranking of films that were screened in two successive years.

For those insomniacs and night owls who choose to remain in their seats, the collection concludes with a trasnoche segment made up of three “shorts” on miscellaneous themes from tango and fútbol to remakes and melodramas.