There is an odd place where exploitation, history, and freedom of expression intersect. Las puertitas del señor López (Mr. López’s Little Doors) is a film that comes precisely from that intersection. The title comes from a comic strip that first appeared in 1979 in El Péndulo, an Argentinian magazine that published science fiction and fantasy literature. A year later, the strip, written by Carlos Trillo and illustrated by Horacio Altuna, moved to another magazine, Humor, where it was published until 1982. Although its lifespan was relatively short, the comic was recognized as brave example of freedom of speech in a time during which Argentina was living under a dictatorship that made censorship a regular thing. After two books, one in 1982 and another in 1988, the comic was finally turned into a movie in 1988.

Argentina, 1988, Alberto Fischerman

In Las puertitas del señor López, Mr. López is a short, balding, pudgy accountant whose life is a never-ending hell of abuse and frustration. His wife is annoying and bossy and constantly tells López what to do, what to eat, what to wear, when to speak, etc. At work, López’s boss is forcing him to create solutions for disappearing funds and simply ignores him when the accountant tries to explain how impossible it is to work with money that doesn’t exist. Last but not least, he falls madly in love with a secretary he’s sure will never look at him twice. To escape his daily routine, López constantly daydreams. Every time things get too hectic, he runs into the nearest bathroom. Crossing the threshold into the bathroom changes the man’s reality and in that safe heaven he can be with the woman he wants and live incredible adventures in which he acts bravely and doesn’t take abuse from anyone.

Carlos Trillo, who wrote the original comic strip, Máximo Soto and director Alberto Fischerman did a nice job of taking the essence of the strip and turning it into a film. The fantastic world López enters when in the bathroom provides a lot of entertainment and weirdness while his slow metamorphosis into a man who can take care of himself and be assertive is a nice exploration of the human condition when we’re pushed into tough situations we never saw coming or simply became accustomed to without realizing it. The acting is very good for a comedy and the audio is decent. As an added bonus, a young Darío Grandinetti plays López’s boss. On a personal side note, I think Grandinetti is one the best Argentinian actors of his generation and El lado oscuro del corazón (The Dark Side of the Heart) is one of my favorite films.

While some Argentinian exploitation lacks production values, this film is clearly out of that group. There is nothing too serious going on here and the humor is pretty mild, but Las puertitas del señor López is more about celebrating a classic comic strip than about trying to get you to laugh or cringe. Ultimately, the movie is about escaping reality in any way possible and the feel-good ending, when analyzed in historical context, was really a way of letting an entire nation know that things would be okay in the end. I definitely suggest you get your hands on this.