The Scriptwriter

by jackieballantyne

Today I’d like to introduce The Scriptwriter of ‘El Gaucho de la Plata‘ – The Silver Gaucho. And for the record: I. too, have eaten costillas at Viejo Roble.

The Scriptwriter

I have been looking forward to this meeting for weeks. Words turn me on, Spanish words in particular.

On a bright and cloudless day in 2001, I am having lunch with the scriptwriter, Dante Corsini, at a parrilla in San Antonio de Areco. He has brought me here to tell me how El Gaucho de la Plata began for him.

Meanwhile, the cast and crew are out in the grounds of the Parque Criollo filming the La Boda episode. Dante and I have run away, escaped from the melee. We agree that we both feel like truants.

The scriptwriter makes a note in his workbook before returning to the costillas, the juicy beef ribs on his plate, and the deep-red Malbec in his glass.

I tuck in too. Lunch is good. And the scriptwriter is eloquent, persuasive, as he fills me in on the backstory.

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Dante Corsini is a slight man. His features are small. His dark hair is longish, ear-lobe in length, but neatly cropped. He is, perhaps, in his early thirties. Nothing about his appearance sets him apart: black T-shirt, blue straight-leg Levis, Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, shadow of stubble. He looks like so many other young, artistic Argentinos.

However, it’s not his looks that have confirmed the scriptwriter’s reputation, but rather his ability to write sharp, entertaining dialogue – gaucho speak.

He explains his strategy. First, he says, he forms the idea of the person: temperament, preoccupations, qualities, foibles. And when he has a grasp on the profile he goes looking for the voice. He needs inflections, emphasis, vocal mannerisms. He assures me that enunciation and expression become the breath of life on screen.

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When he was first appointed by Eduard Millan, Dante began his research by reading the iconic ‘Martín Fierro’, hoping that in the words of José Hernández’ epic poem he would find what he was looking for.

He did not.

He drove to outlying flatlands and humid hinterlands to investigate tales of the folk hero, Gauchito Gil, but found disparities from region to region, which made the scriptwriter question the integrity of the information.

He dug into the wealth of gauchesco literature and found the stories gave him ideas for plot lines and minor roles, but they did not solve his most immediate problem.

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San Antonio de Areco is a tourist town in the province of Buenos Aires. The scriptwriter says he first came here to immerse himself in gaucho culture and, hopefully, to find a model for his gaucho voice.

He tells me that lunching here at Viejo Roble became a highlight of his week in the small town. The food is good, he says.

My mouth is full. I nod in agreement, put down my costilla and wipe the excess from my mouth and chin.

Dante tells me that he prefers to sit, like this, at the periphery of life, where he can watch and listen and make notes. Sometimes he imagines that he might be invisible. He wonders if people can see through him.

We laugh at his word play. I like the way his mind works. I enjoy his company.

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Dante Corsini is an eavesdropper. Escuchar tras las puertas is the local term. He explains that the literal translation is ‘listening at doors’.

Each day, whether he was strolling through the Parque Criollo, riding his rented bike through the dusty streets or deep in thought in the Museum Gauchesco, the scriptwriter was listening.

Sitting in the church of San Antonia de Padua, deliberating over chocolates at La Olla de Cobra or nursing an aperitif in one of the old pulperias, he was stealing language from under unsuspecting noses.

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Across the table, the scriptwriter is excited; he is nearing the climax of his story.

On Friday afternoon, the final day of his voice-finding week in San Antonio de Areco, Dante cycled along the river bank to join the fogon. This, he tells me, is the traditional weekly gaucho meeting held mainly for the tourists.

At the fogon he stood in a circle watching the men play taba. That’s when he heard the voice.

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The scriptwriter introduced himself.

The man with the perfect gaucho voice was well dressed, bien empilchado. He wore a red, white and black-striped poncho over one shoulder with a bright-blue silk kerchief knotted at his neck. The polished silver handle of his knife, his facon, protruded from a blue belt and his black woollen bombachas, were tucked into black leather boots. A rakish, wide brimmed chambergos shaded his face.

As it transpired, the magnificent gaucho was an articulate man. He explained that he had driven up from Buenos Aires especially for the fogon. He came each Friday, when he could get away from the office.

In the real world he was an account director for a multi-national advertising agency.

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