Money To Burn - Ricardo Piglia

Cerisaye's Review

*****I recommend you see the movie, Burnt Money, before reading this book/review.*****

At the end of Burnt Money I didnít want to let go of Angel & Nene, those beautiful Argentinian bank robbers known as the Twins.† Forever frozen in an image of true love that proves the lie gay men donít commit like straights.

I got a copy of the original novel.† In translation, as I donít know Spanish.† Having seen a couple of dreadful book-to-movie adaptations recently (Testosterone and Frisk) I was wary.† Well, this one has been faithfully, but not slavishly, transferred from page to big screen.† But if you need to choose, definitely go for the film which is way ahead in emotional impact and homoerotic intensity.† Thereís just no comparison.† See the movie, then read the book for background.† I got most from details of Angel & Neneís lives before we meet them.†

Here, Angel is Dorda, known as the Blond Gaucho.† Nene is Brignone, called the Kid.† Well, Angel as blond is just not possible.† Heís dark and sultry, Eduardo Noriega, the gorgeous Spaniard.† And Leonardo Sbaraglia isnít diseased, thin and fragile, though he is pale and sexily good-looking, like the Kid.

Whereas the movie tells its powerful story with linear progression, the novel flits about in time and place, varying POV.† It shows how Dorda and Brigone became the Gaucho and the Kid, and got caught in true-life events that took place in Buenos Aires and Montevideo between September and November 1965: a robbery gone wrong then the dramatic siege that made the protagonists legendary.†

Action scenes use immediate present tense, to effect.† Though the narrative takes a detached documentary approach.† Yes, Dorda and Brigone are lovers, but their simmering sexuality and ache of yearning that makes the movie so special is diluted.† Maybe that makes it palatable to mainstream (i.e. straightcentric) readership.† Whereas the filmís focus means nothing distracts from its charismatic leads and one of the most incredible love stories Iíve ever seen.

Thereís a Wild West ethos, lawless and lethal, appropriate to the material with those names, Gaucho and Kid.† The robbery has a small part at the beginning of the movie, then action shifts to the hideout in Montevideo for a claustrophobic and increasingly tense period of waiting for the inevitable showdown with the authorities.† The book takes longer to get to Uruguay, explaining how the heist is set up, the motivations of individual gang members, etc.† However, the basic story† is the same.

Angel/Dardo and Nene/Brigone are lovers in a macho Argentinian culture that despises faggots as womanly and weak.† Yet they make themselves heroes.† Thereís an important difference.† Burning the stolen money is a declaration in book and film.† But the film, by emphasising the homoerotic relationship between Angel and Nene, makes it a symbolic gesture against a deeply homophobic society that has repressed them. Their love is redemptive and by destroying the money, in effect theyíre saying Fuck you! to those who deny that love.† Some have called the film homophobic because it portrays gay men as psychopaths, murderers, and thieves who can only survive by consuming copious quantities of drugs.† That misses the point: Angel and Nene have been damaged by a society that rejects them, turned them into drugged-out outlaws.† The book, however, makes it political more than personal, defiance against a corrupt regime that criminalises misfits like Dorda and Brigone.

Ricardio Piglia based his novel on original source material, including interviews, interrogation transcripts, surveillance records and psychiatric reports, authentic true-life crime.† It is particularly strong accounting the explosive 15-hour siege involving over 300 police.† But the film is unbeatable, a soaring romantic epic, with lover-heroes confronting and resisting insurmountable odds on their path to destiny.†† I wonít return to the novel, but Iíve already watched the movie 3 times.† Though Iíd watch Eduardo Noriega read the telephone directory so maybe Iím a tad biased.