Argentine writer and filmmaker Edgardo Cozarinsky dies age 85

The author of ‘Urban Voodoo’ and director of dozens of prizewinning fiction and essay films passed away on June 2 in Buenos Aires

Renowned Argentine writer and filmmaker Edgardo Cozarinsky, whose hybrid work between fiction, memoir, and essay earned him praise from names like Susan Sontag, passed away in Buenos Aires on June 2, at the age of 85.

“A man of many countries, as well as his own,” wrote film historian Fernando Martín Peña for the introduction of a special program of two of his films the Buenos Aires Latin American Art Museum will present on Sunday, June 9. “A worshiper of both gossip and elegance. Mundane, milonguero, nocturnal. A sharp conversationalist,” he added. 

Born in Buenos Aires in 1939, in a home of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Cozarinsky grew reading classic literature by authors like Henry James and Joseph Conrad, and nurturing on Hollywood’s golden-age films at the old cinemas of Buenos Aires (a topic he would masterfully write about in his 2006 book Palacios plebeyos).

A young friend of Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo, Cozarinsky became a collaborator in their landmark cultural magazine Sur, where he also met Jorge Luis Borges. 

His early works in the 1970s dealt with gossip as a literary form and the connection between Borges’ work and film in his essential Borges y el cine

Yet his most notorious work at the time was mostly cinematographic, with his first film … o Puntos suspensivos premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971. The film was also a candidate for Best Film at the MoMa Film Festival in New York.

Cozarinsky spent most of the 1970s and 1980s between Buenos Aires in Paris, where he directed films like La Guerre d’un seul homme (1981), Autoportrait d’un inconnu – Jean Cocteau (1983), and Guerreros y cautivas (1989). 

In 1985, he published Urban Voodoo, a blend of fiction and essay texts that was prologued by Susan Sontag and Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

Urban voodoo is a book of exile,” wrote Sontag. “Cozarinsky’s Buenos Aires (the local past) and his Paris (the cosmopolitan present) are both capitals of a nostalgia that is both retroactive and foreboding. The writer’s voodoo conjures the past to sharpen unsoothed desires, and also to exorcise them.”  

His literary work, which varied between fiction, autobiography, and essays, was jump-started in the late 1990s by a cancer diagnosis in Buenos Aires, where he had mostly settled since 1989.

Cozarinsky then wrote more than 20 acclaimed books, like The Bride from Odessa (2001), The Moldavian Pimp (2004), and The Museum of Gossip (2005), a body of work that earned him the Literary Achievement Award of the National Arts Fund in 2016. A year later, his short stories book En el último trago nos vamos earned him the Gabriel García Márquez Hispanic-American Short Story Award.

Throughout his writing career, he continued to direct films that premiered in top festivals around the world, most notably Citizen Langlois (a 1994 documentary on the legendary director of the French Cinematheque), Le Violon de Rothschild (1996), Fantômes de Tanger (1997), Ronda Nocturna (2005), and Carta a un padre (2013), among others.

He also worked in theater as a playwright and director, with plays like Squash, a mini-opera called Raptos, and as an actor in Vivi Tellas’ documentary-theater play Cozarinsky y su médico (‘Cozarinsky and his doctor’).

The French Cinematheque programmed a full retrospective of his work in 2019. The next year, he received the Lifetime Achievement Prize at the Mar del Plata Film Festival, where he would later premiere what became his last film, Duet (2023) an autobiographical portrait of male friendship co-directed with actor Rafael Ferro.


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