Alberto Durant’s Doble juego is something of a cross between Chicha tu madre and Ojos que no ven. Like the former, it deals with the everyday negotiations and double-dealings that constitute the warp and woof of contemporary Peru. Everyone’s trying to get by, everyone’s in debt to someone else, and everyone’s up for a hustle here, or a hustle there. In this case, however, the hustlers are quite comprehensively out-hustled by a Spanish conman who all too easily ties them up into knots, hoist by their own petards of fortune-seeking and get-rich-quick dreams.
And like Ojos que no ven, the film is set in the dying days of the Fujimori regime, with revelations of vladivideos and official corruption constantly on the TV or radio in the background. But unlike in Lombardi’s film, here nobody’s really paying attention. They are so caught up in their deals and dreams that they fail to draw the larger lessons. Theirs really are “unseeing eyes,” belonging to people who have yet to learn that if a proposition sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. A combination of necessity and greed (and in Durant’s depiction, necessity seems to breed greed) cauterizes vision.
Those ensnared in this “double game” are therefore on the whole singularly unattractive. And they range the gamut from a lower-class doorman to a range of more or less high class (or “pituco”) figures who have fallen on hard times: the son of a factory owner who’s trying to make his way as a film-maker; an interior designer who has a problem with alcohol; a recently divorced estate agent. They, along with an unemployed accountant working as a taxi driver, his daughter who is a would-be student getting by as a hotel receptionist (and petty thief), plus sundry other minor figures, become ensnared in a net woven by a likeable Spaniard who goes by the name of Salvador and who claims to be working for the Spanish telecommunications giant, Telefónica.
Like any good conman, Salvador gives the appearance that he is spending far more money than is coming his way. He gives out promissory notes like confetti: he has something to offer everyone. And he arrives on the horizon of these people’s lives as a literal saviour: the doorman will be able to pay off his pregnant girlfriend; the factory owner’s son will be able to pay off his debts and also buy his girlfriend a piano; the interior designer will have her big break; and so on and so forth.
Of course, Salvador saves no-one. But he does gather a community around him. The film shows the way in which corruption can function as a social glue: it’s a power of connection that crosses ethnic and class barriers, even as it depends upon the anxious desires for survival and ascent that social hierarchies instill. But corruption is an equal opportunity failing. There’s something both deterritorializing and affirmative about corruption. Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to distinguish between other forms of community formation, such as the ways in which groups form around local services: here, the hairdresser who is everybody’s friend and confidant.
To put this another way: Salvador is endlessly joining the dots, filling in the blanks. By making himself at home in other people’s lives, he’s continually performing the role of host as well as parasite, introducing one character to another, always the intermediary trying to find his way around obstacles and blockages, to make things happen. Perhaps that’s why in the end the conman is probably the film’s most sympathetic character: he provides the grease that makes the social machinery run, as well as the shock that causes it to break down again. Stop and start, stop and start, through his shape-shifting performances and so his indeterminacy he becomes immanent to the multitudinous mechanisms that constitute contemporary Lima.
Video Link: the film’s trailer.