Delicia (Isabel Sarli) is a factory worker who has a job in a meat packing plant, but when she is not doing that she spends her time with her husband Antonio (Victor Bo) who aspires to be an artist, and with Delicia's beauty he can paint portraits of her and feel truly fulfilled: she is nothing less than his muse. Unfortunately, she is so lovely that she attracts unwelcome attention from men who are a lot less respectful towards women than Antonio is, and one morning as she walks to work along the railway tracks, an undesirable character emerges from the shadows and grapples her to the ground. She thinks she is saved from assault by one of her co-workers, but then he attacks her as well...
Isabel Sarli was Argentina's most prominent sex symbol of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, though despite being courted by other filmmakers to appear in their projects - filmmakers from Hollywood and Europe, not solely South America - she stayed loyal to her beloved Armando Bo till his death, more or less exclusively appearing in works directed by him, because she trusted him both to give her substantial roles, and to show her in her best light. Watching Carne this may be surprising to the uninitiated for her heroine seems to spend half the film getting raped by some really scuzzy men, making it look as if Argentina was filled with sexually degenerate scum.
So if her home nation, or the males of her home nation, did not come out of this too well, what was the appeal there? In a conservative era, Sarli's films were subversive, as was her nudity. Without wishing to sound pseudo-intellectual, by doffing her togs in a culture where that was simply not the done thing, she attracted all sorts of marginalised groups, not merely male cinemagoers who wanted a sexual thrill. She was admired by women for playing characters who may suffer mightily, but were survivors and found inner reserves of strength in her ordeals, and gay audiences loved her too for there was no getting around it, her melodramas were camp of the highest order, and they responded.
Not to say there is much funny about rape, but Delicia's indignities were so over the top that it became a curious kind of running joke how often she was dragged off to be assaulted, partly because she was supposed to be irresistible, partly because the men who committed these crimes had no respect for her, and indeed no respect for themselves. At no point were the criminals depicted as misunderstood or sympathetic in any way, we are supposed to despise them just as Delicia does, hoping she can find a way to escape or that the noble Antonio will rescue her, whichever happens first. Carne means meat, and the evil men regard her as a slab of beef just like the cow carcasses they hang up in the walk-in refrigerators, so it's perhaps no surprise she is violated in one of those too.
Whether this instigated a debate about rape, or the mistreatment of women by men, was a moot point, certainly when it was this in your face it did make you confront the issue if not come up with any answers to its prevention: once the deeds are done, it's more about getting revenge for Delicia than having an earnest discussion about feminism. Nevertheless, Sarli was a striking presence in her films that she was an advocate for these things almost accidentally, as you want to see her prevail, and the director is happy to create opportunities for precisely that. With odd asides like snarky comments about the factory bosses, one of the rapists turning out to be homosexual and deciding Delicia has suffered enough, for which she is grateful, and quite a stretch of the action taking place in the back of a truck where she has been held captive, there was the expected shower scene (Sarli was often naked around water in her films) but it is overlaid with her reliving her nightmare on the soundtrack. In vivid colour, Carne was often plunging straight into bad taste, but Isabel was unforgettable, in a good way. Overemphatic organ music by Elijio Ayala Morín and Rodolfo Ubriaco.