gonz30

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Diary of a Sex Addict
(2001)

With that title, how can you expect a masterpiece? Why watch at all?
People never cease to amaze me. There are 29 quasi-unanimously negative comments about this movie. Many all-time masterpieces have only 3 to 5 comments posted on this site. If this is such a forgettable trashy TV movie (which it may be to many), why waste so much time criticizing mediocrity? Why bother after wasting almost 2 hours of your life? Why watch the movie at all? I saw it recently because it was the best option on late night Cable TV (HBO or Cinemax). When I read the synopsis which the channel superimposes on the TV image, I knew I was in for a B, no C or D movie. I was however surprised that Nastassja Kinski was in it. Sadly, she also had nothing better to do at the time. Well, at least she got paid for the experience.

And as for me, I got what I expected: a 5 over 10 rated movie.I dis-considered the title and exploitative subject matter in this rating. I mean, who of these 29 bored "users" expected CITIZEN KANE or the ultimate crusade film against sex addiction? A campy old Joan Collins-style flick is what came to mind, and that's what I got.

Actually, it's entertaining, and it does make a statement for the problem of sex addiction, although it is really so low grade, it's hard to take the film seriously, and not as a funny parody with tongue in cheek humor. But for a late night flick, it's not bad, it's easy to follow .... it's entertainment.

Actually, I think I may change my vote to a 7. Considering the genre, it's above average. Besides Joan Collins dramas, trashy classics like SHOWGIRLS came to mind as I was watching this. Sin in suburbia - the whole idea is boring and banal. How can a movie or book make this material a timeless classic? Wake up people! Are IMDb users really so terminally bored?

Te lo leggo negli occhi
(2004)

Not as bad as the rating suggests
This is not a bad movie (considering it a made for TV movie). It's a family drama to be enjoyed on Cable TV late night, as I did. The well known cast is excellent, the views of Rome and Naples are gorgeous, and the dramatic plot, while nothing new, is in the "good to very good" category for European TV movies we see on Cable (currently playing on Cinemax - Latin America).

I think the reason the IMDb rating is so low is that Italians are fed up with this type of formulaic drama. If they aren't they should be. I don't live in Italy but the Italian films we see here in cinemas, DVD, and on Cable (Eurochannel, Cinemax, HBO, RAI) all seem so similar. Some actors, like Stefania Sandrelli, in this film, seem to appear in every other film. The dysfunctional family, illness, and mental health are also ubiquitous, as themes. One confuses all these films in one's minds sometimes, when recalling a specific recent Italian movie. Nevertheless, it may be worth your while to check it out when and if it's on CABLE TV in your area.

Soldado de Deus
(2005)

Doc only for those versed in Brazilian political history
This is a documentary that will appeal to, and indeed be understood by, a very small group of people - those versed in Brazilian political history. Others will find it hard to connect the multiple interviews this film consists of, and of following the political references and people/personalities involved.

If you follow Brazilian political history, however, this documentary may be for you. It does not reveal anything new, nor does it shine new light on past events. It simply is a study of "integralismo" from its beginning to its end, suggesting that its end was at least somewhat absorbed by the Military Government of 1964-1985.

It would seem the film maker wants to document for posterity the history and soul of "integralismo" - a 1930s right-wing Brazilian political movement with at least some touches of German National Socialism and Italian Fascism. The picture focuses on the movement's principal mentor, Plínio Salgado - THE SOLDIER OF GOD, thus the title name.

Some witnesses (including those now deceased ones using archive footage) recount what they helped to establish, fight for, and put in place. Others are shown, some who always condemned the movement, judged and criticized it, along with those who were students at the time. This right wing nationalist movement mobilized about a million people, having 500 thousand members, and was the first right wing party of the masses in Brazil. Interesting, but to a very limited group of viewers.

The Other Side of AIDS
(2004)

One-sided, totally skewed and manipulative documentary
Described as "controversial" by some, this film is actually a one-sided, totally skewed and manipulative documentary, which will mesmerize the uninformed or the fanatics of holistic medicine.

While I certainly agree that modern medicine has progressed miraculously these past 60 or so years, it is far from a perfect exact science, especially when it comes to something like AIDS. But medicine and the pharmaceutical industry has worked hard against AIDS in the past 21/22 years. And to propagate outright lies through film that HIV has nothing to do with AIDS is plainly irresponsible.

By highlighting a fabulously persuasive seemingly mainstream American heterosexual HIV positive mother, with a wonderful healthy family - including 2 children she breast fed, the film scores a coup, coming off convincingly as the bearer of "God's truth" to the "silent majority."

By adding in, gay (but mostly very straight acting)... socially acceptable" gay men, they address what they can't keep away from the "silent majority" - a lot of white males DO have the disease, and plainly introduce it to the "infected mainstream" population in the "civilized world".

To us who have survived this disease, the documentary says nothing new. It shows us the same old faces, many of whom became famous by writing books of the "How I F***** My Brains Out but I'm Still Here!" sort.

Incredibly, the film makes no mention of Southern Africa. It does feature an African victim, but not from one of the really devastated countries, which is where the bulk of AIDS victims are, and always have been. The movie lives in this time warp when the disease was a white middle/upper class disease, introduced by gays. How can Africa be ignored? It's the undisputed geographical origin of AIDS.

Also, the film makes great use of these "acceptable" gay men living with HIV/AIDS for 20 or 25 years now. Hello, what's NEW ABOUT THAT! Many survive without medication, ... as if this were ground breaking news. How ignorant do the film makers the public is?

If you live in a major metropolis, and have contact with the gay community, you'll see they are no rarity, though of course not the norm. But all the "victims" I know, with maybe 2 or 3 exceptions, who got through the initial epidemic of the 80s alive, are mostly still alive, and ALL share the HIV link.

Target viewers of this documentary probably know very little about gays, the disease, or Africa. Or else they'd stay away after reading the synopsis. Exceptions may be people like me, who only saw this since I had extra time at a Film Festival setting, a friend persuaded me, and I said why not? Why exclude something based upon my arrogance of knowing more than most others about HIV/AIDS.

The documentary is indeed the one-sided farce I expected. First, there's the "compassionate" (and very exceptional case) of people who think HIV does not cause AIDS. Hell, there's people breathing air in the same room as AIDS patients is deadly! The film includes a German-American scientist, shown as a "sad victim of his outspokenness" to cover this base. He "lost his career" for being too vocal.

Then, the film really focuses on those chose are VILLAINS. And yes, what a "good group" of villains are shown: doctors who affirm that HIV does cause AIDS or at least is a factor in AIDS. They're ALL unsavory, arrogant, snotty snobs - chosen obviously to be hateful, which they play convincingly - better than some actors. The only reason for their inclusion is obviously to SEAL the film's one-sided, UNPROVEN agenda to the "public" - many in international film festivals where American "scientific" documentaries impress the hell out of people. How misleading and manipulative!

Ij contrast with the "villains", the people chosen to advocate the film's point of view on screen are all so "acceptable" - no minorities, etc - it's not a true cross-section at all. Much less of the US West Coast! The mothers are all the very picture of "Suzie Sorority from the Silent Minority" with additional angelical Virgin Mary attributes. How can these decent innocent girls be lying? What crap.

I only rate this film a four for the remarkable achievement of its "release" as a serious "documentary" at film festivals world wide, and even getting away with some good reviews! But as much as I hate this word, it's heresy (the film's message). Yes, we all OBVIOUSLY have the right to our own opinion. But to disseminate lies and distorted facts like this? It should be outlawed.

If films like this are allowed, what's next? "Enslaving Negroes was not caused by greedy white people- they were brought to America after all", or "How Nazis helped us finally rid Europe of Jews"! This film fans the same type of false, racially based lying revisionism of recent history.

10 Attitudes
(2001)

Not a "Blockbuster Video" flick - made to be seen at a gay film festival
This gay "romantic tragic-comedy" was not made, I think, to be watched by oneself after renting it from a mainstream video store. As the writer/director in the screening I saw here last week suggested, it is best (and perhaps only) appreciated at a gay film festival watching it with an audience predisposed to its sense of humor and philosophy of life. The video is low grade, the situations are actually a satire of West Hollywood, being so over the top stereotypical of the area and its reputation.

Though several very well known actors from "Baywatch" other major Hollywood comedy series, and network soap operas are featured, it is a very low budget production, and it shows. So, for me, living abroad, in a continental-sized country the size of the US, with a similarly monolingual culture, the true test of its success is whether the audiences here "got" the film, and whether it made them laugh or moan in the right places.

And the film did that. To a packed house. And Portuguese here is like English elsewhere - it's the only language you'll ever hear even in this, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Latin America. Many American cultural icons (known "worldwide") like Barbra Streisand, heavily used in the movie in jokes and comments, are unknown here to anyone under 50, and I mean among gays! So, a lot of the humor and understanding of the situations are totally lost to the audience. Yet the "10 attitudes" or Ten Chances for Love (as it is known here) are UNIVERSAL, and the film makes its point very well indeed. Even here and with laughs galore! But again, it is for this specific audience or the gay friendly audience (I think it goes down well with liberal young women). And DEFINITELY do not rent it (didn't even think it would be launched as a DVD) for your Flat Wide Screen High Definition Screen. The quality of the image would be enough to make me turn it off.

Yes, we have had Flat Screen, European type (1.85 to 1 aspect ratio) TV with the same advanced audio as anyone in LA or London has for years. And nobody I know here would watch such a film on one of those. This is a definitely something to be seen at a festival screening with the right crowd, and screened there, it is a very enjoyable, funny and insightful personal experience, in addition to the movie viewing. My only negative words would be that it is about 10 minutes too long. Maybe 8 or 9 attitudes would have been enough. Still, if you're in this target audience, you'll like it.

Le miroir de l'eau
(2004)

Important! You CAN see it outside France, and is now on Cable TV
I, like the the other & only user comment, also enjoyed the series immensely, and share his/her take on it. So I won't be repetitive, but I will be very informative, hoping this is not considered a response to another comment- apparently a no-no and it isn't a response.

I just saw it yesterday in a Sunday "marathon" of all 4 episodes. That said, IMDb only shows US TV listings. So for all of you (us) in the rest of the world, "Eurochannel" (which carries a lot of "Canal + and ARTE" TV movies and series) has been showing it from one end of the Americas to the other since, at least, last month. If they follow their perfectly predictable transmission pattern, this mini series will play REGULARLY (4 or 5 times per month is their norm). Then, for another year, at least - that's twice every couple of months for another 2 years or so - both as single episodes and in the full marathon version. So, look out for it.

As the other comment suggested, it is probably impossible to watch it, if not in this way. The DVD will only be launched in Europe. FYI, I only want to inform potential fans of the film, I subscribe, and do not work for or own stock in "Eurochannel". This channel, showing this film, is usually carried by Direct TV cable/satellite TV in most countries, and here in Brazil, also by the largest of the satellite companies, so that may be the case in other countries as well.

In any case, the TV transmissions and commercials display its show times in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina (the four largest markets in the non-US Americas), so at least throughout the Americas it is now playing, and Eurochannel is not a "premium" channel like the "HBO-Cinemax" channels, so the film is being transmitted widely and not just to the elite with the most expensive pay TV packages.

Definitely a must-watch for fans of European mini-series, French films (it has a great and known cast) and "Sixth Sense" type films, but in a different setting.

La dignidad de los nadies
(2005)

Shocking, Unbelievable social chaos in a "once" first world country!
As rich as an Argentine, they used to say.

Even in the 1970s, Argentina and particularly the Buenos Aires area covered in this documentary had a middle class, the life style and affluence that was not just the envy of the Americas, but that of Spain, Italy, and Portugal, among other now "rich" countries.

In the history of mass European migration to "America", Argentina was often on par with the USA as the most desired destination, and back then going to "America" also meant going to Argentina. Well, how low can the former 2nd or 3rd richest nation in the world fall? See this documentary, and find out.

Even if you've visited Argentina six times since early 2002 as I have, you'll be floored. The few shantytowns a tourist may see resemble poor Mississippi towns in the US more than the huge and really miserable Brazilian or South African shantytowns. So, one gets the impression that the poorest in Buenos Aires live like the lower middle class in third world countries.

But Argentine reality is different, as shown in this film. These newly poor Argentines have come from what was one one of the most socially equal countries in the world, with a very big middle class. These newly poor have not lived in these slums for decades like in South Africa, or even a century in Brazil's case.

This is perhaps why the film's title refers to dignity, something these "nouveau" poor have not lost. Perhaps one of the few things European multinationals, in cohorts with the local government, have not been able to rob them of.

The feeling of community and helping each other out in adversity is beautifully expressed in this documentary. It's unbelievable that in a naturally rich, huge country, but with a population comparable to metropolitan Tokyo alone, people go hungry.

More importantly than being the world's 6th largest country, is the fact that it is prime land with more than everything it needs. It has no huge deserts like in Australia & China, not mostly ice & tundra like Canada or Russia, nor large & mostly tropical forest like Brazil.

It's self sufficient in everything, exporting oil & natural gas, shares the world's largest fresh water reserve - once the world's breadbasket & greatest meat exporter. This documentary helps one to understand the absurdity of the current situation.

If possible, see the director's earlier "Memorias del Saqueo" (2004)first. YES, you may think the people are responsible for electing corrupt politicians. But what "HONEST" European & American bankers unload loans on a nation, knowing a good part of the money will be kept by corrupt politicians.... in many cases the banks & corporations had already bribed government officials to obtain their lucrative contracts & licenses to take away the country's richness from its people and transfer them abroad. As one wise lady in the film yells as banks take away her family's lands, "Argentina is no longer Argentina." Nowhere else have I seen this point better expressed.

That issue is actually addressed more fully in "Memorias del Saqueo", but anyway, more than a decade of these "saqueos" (pillages) have produced the miserable results shown in both films. And again, this is not India with a billion people & endemic poverty for centuries. This is (WAS) a nearly fully developed country THE SIZE OF India, but with 3.8% of India's population, and all the natural reserves India, China, Japan don't have! Not only things like natural gas and oil, but a 3 thousand kilometer coast whose fishing rights have been sold to a great extent to the Japanese, leaving Argentine fisherman unemployed.

All this is what happens when a well intentioned pretty well developed & industrialized country follows the policy of the World Bank, IMF, and current rules of modern capitalism to the T. "Foreign investors" offer a country this supposedly honest carrot. The "good faith" of the international banking system is unmasked by this director as you've never seen it done before on the screen.

You'll see how foreign concerns take everything (including Argentine oil, sold off at a laughable price to the Spanish "Repsol") from the people as a whole, and from the formerly middle-class people: the riches of the whole country; all this achieved by bribing over half of the Congress.

The rich have not been dispossessed by the way, as in communist or popular revolutions, but rather a rape of a country unseen in modern times has occurred.

Entire villages have been closed down by these multinationals, if the factories are deemed not profitable, causing human suffering the film's characters will realistically recount.

Rich Italian (from Italy itself) pensioners who invested their pension plans in Argentina & have been up in arms for 3 years, asking for every Euro of profit their pensions promised should see this film. They can confirm what their devious Pension Plans did to a whole people. Didn't these "investors" wonder why the yield was so fabulous?

In fact, Italian-descending farmers represent one of the most poignant cases shown in this documentary. And one that the middle and upper classes, the audiences who WATCH this kind of "artsy festival" film can relate to. It's the case of grandchildren of Italian and other European immigrants - they themselves now in their 60s, whose forefathers labored for generations in this land to acquire their own farms.

Now, they are having to turn them over to foreign banks or go to auction and sell them at ridiculous prices by foreigners, who else?, or banks to "settle debts". A significant slice of the film shows this injustice.

Don't miss this documentary, and do all you can to see the earlier "Memorias del Saqueo." This is the second of two gems that expose a reality the "First World" should see, right in their faces.

Vinho de Rosas
(2005)

The Rio/SP FilmFests' Unofficial Critic says: Not for Everyone
Not for everyone, this film "ROSE WINE" refers to wine made at the convent where our heroine spends her youth. The film is a "what if" biography of the daughter who Brazil's pro-independence leader "Tiradentes" MAY have had.

Developing this story in the picturesque state of "Minas Gerais", the film presents us a child, brought up in a convent, with no knowledge whatsoever of her origins. The screenplay claims, however, she is Joaquina, the only legitimate child of Tiradentes, the hero of the Brazilian pro-independence rising.

Brought up in a convent, she has grown into a charming, lively young lady, despite strict convent rules, as the film begins. Then, some time later at the age of 18, she discovers she is Tiradentes' daughter and that her mother is still alive.

This discovery alters her life (I'll avoid spoilers), but she continues to make rose wine, just as she did at the convent. The film is a simple period piece, presumably meant to be appreciated for its aesthetic qualities. However, at 143 minutes, the picture overextends its welcome and becomes dull.

Cafundó
(2005)

The Rio/SP FilmFests' Unofficial Critic says: Great Biopic, but not for everyone
This film was very difficult to make. As explained by its director Paulo Betti (actually one of Brazil's most famous soap opera & film actors) in the Rio premiere, the picture has been in the making for over a decade. Chief among the endless hurdles preventing its production and release were and still are the film's non commercial elements: a black former slave protagonist, a mule-pack rider turned spiritual leader, and its location in Brazil's dreary interior.

Perhaps all these "lost" years actually gave the producers an advantage, lots of time to produce a beautifully filmed biography about a controversial black Brazilian legend who lived almost 90 years (through Brazilian history's most turbulent times), in an entertaining but well told fashion. They deliver the story in about 100 minutes without cutting the essentials, or leaving giant plot holes, another big plus. This "biopic" could have easily one for another 30 minutes in someone else's hands. So, kudos for the "editing" as well.

The acting is excellent. The casting of Lazaro Ramos ("Madama Satã") is perfect. But after seeing him star him star in 3 or 4 films in this festival alone, foreign (and casual local) viewers may wonder if he's the only black actor in Brazil! He has also starred in most of the Afro-Brazilian film roles in the past 3 years. His presence on TV is also strong.

Now, in a country with the second largest Afro population in the entire world - 75/80 or so million; losing only to Nigeria, but with twice the numbers of South Africa, and almost 3 times as many as in the United States, one would expect exposure of more black actors. But, let's say, we in Brazil, are still at the "Sydnet Poitier" stage the U.S. was at 40, 35 years ago. As mentioned earlier, a leading black actor in a non conventional role is still box office poison. Perhaps Lazaro's name will limit the effect of that poison.

I hope so, because it is worth seeing, though not for everyone. If your understanding of Brazil or of general world history is fuzzy, the film may not be for you. It is important to understand the "frontier" atmosphere in the late 19th century in both Americas. I mean being familiar with the repressive military and pro-Christian elite, and their zeal to wipe out the "heathen" Afro-Spiritist-Catholic religions practiced by the majority of the population. The mixture of cultures and races around this time had to lead to alternative religions.

The focus of this film, religious leader João De Camargo, became a legend in his lifetime and his image is found, even today, in shops and religious places throughout Brazil. He died in 1942, so he's no remote historical figure. The film was inspired by a biography of this true character, who lived in the region of Sorocaba (Sao Paulo State).

Cafundó refers to a mystical yet existing hilly area where Camargo's mother would always lead him, to find "the truth." The turn of the 19th to 20th Century, the film's time focus, presents a Brazil in the process of becoming urban, with a common culture and identity, conflicting with the separate rural and slave-driven cultures of the very recent past. Suffering from the contradictions of these times, exploited as cheap labor as a former slave, João experiences a spiritual period of despair and hallucination.

He is saved when he finds his faith and salvation in a creed that is a cross between his African roots and prevailing Judeo-Christian roots. João begins to believe he can see God, and that his mission on earth is to cure people. This conviction of course comes at odds with the ruling European-descending oligarchy, which together with the Catholic Church ruled Brazil until relatively recently.

The film will not present much you haven't seen before: witch hunts, inquisitions and the like. But it is nevertheless insightful, and may grab your interest, mainly because of the film's merciful duration of about 100 minutes. Similarly-themed films are usually much longer, and tend to lose audience attention, no matter how good they are. This one may be worth your time.

Return to the Land of Wonders
(2004)

The Rio/SP FilmFests' Unofficial Critic's Note:The best doc. about the Iraqi conflict, hands down, 2 thumbs up!
Again, it is odd to me that this outstanding documentary, which has been shown internationally, several times at the Rio Film Festival last month alone, has NO user comment. So, I will again contribute my two cent's worth; perhaps to help those of you out there to determine whether this film is for you or not.

If you're interested in the current Iraqi conflict (the film documents events of 2003 and 2004), the film is definitely for you. If you'd like an easy to follow, not CNN/BBC style, but rather a deeply personal account about Iraq, and events leading to free elections and a new constitution, the film is also highly recommendable. If you just like documentaries in general, with particular interest in the world's most current events, you can't miss this.

Apparently, it's a made for TV commentary. But it is unlikely to air on any mainstream American, British or "coalition country" cable channel anytime soon. Not that this is a stridently anti-American or anti-British film by any means, but it tells and shows us CNN, BBC, TV5, FOX News, Deutsche Welle, and other cable and satellite news watchers many things we all ready know or suspect, ... and then some.

The documentary is almost entirely narrated in excellent English. It is basically presented by the experiences of a very traditional family. They were very rich and influential in pre-1967 Iraq - and probably still very rich in Britain, where they've been exiled for 37 years or so.

The father now returns as one of the top exiles asked to work on the new, proposed Iraqi Constitution. His highly educated daughter returns with him, to accompany her aging father, and of course to make this documentary.

She exceeds any expectation of an impartial, well made account of the situation in her work. Her re-encounters with former family friends and servants, as well as pictures and tales from that now-disappeared Iraq add a sense of legitimacy, realism, and intimacy I have not seen yet - in fact I don't think such an insightful, personal and impartial doc about Iraq yet has been made. And I've seen quite a lot about Iraq.

If documentaries, or the subject matter interest you, run to see it. You won't regret it.

Un mundo menos peor
(2004)

The Rio/SP FilmFests' Unofficial Critic's Note:Among the 3 best Argentine films of 2004/5
It is odd that this film, which has won several international awards, in the past 5 months or so, has NO user comment. This is why I will contribute my two cent's worth; perhaps to help those of you out there to determine whether this film is for you or not.

It is definitely among the top 3 or 4 Argentine films of the season, along with ROMA and GEMINIS. Like these last two films, however, it is also not for everyone, but it does share with the last two the theme of convoluted family relationships made in Buenos Aires.

Another commonality between the 3, is the excellent directing. This film's creator is of one of Argentina's best 40 something director, now in his prime. In comparison, ROMA and GEMINIS are directed by a very consecrated mid 60s director, and a young female director.

The three are from different generations, but are by now all internationally respected and all share their intent on exploring Argentina's tortured soul - a national pastime, second maybe to tango and football, or maybe on the same footing.

That said, Alejandro Agresti, known since his Best Revelation Director Award at the 1987 San Sebastian Film Festival, has achieved his best work with "Un MUNDO," surpassing the sensitive and touching "Valentín" (2002) with Carmen Maura.

The theme may address the familiar and overworked theme of the "desaparecidos" (the missing/disappeared from the former dictatorship"), but Agresti adds cinematic touches, parallel subplots, and chillingly desolate locales, to differentiate this film from the others. The sense,of mystery and unanswered questions are other well succeeded approaches used by the director.

The plot is relatively simple. A couple was separated during the early 80s. The disappeared husband was assumed dead, but his pregnant wife was spared. Twenty or so years later, the wife discovers that her husband is still alive, hiding or in denial of his past in a desolate beach town in the south, which comes alive at most 2 month per year during the summer. The wife (with no easy life herself these past decades) travels to present him with their daughter, who have never seen each other nor perhaps known of each other's existence.

At the very end of the film, they all try to reconstruct the family that they may have dreamed of, if it's not too late, and if forgiveness and understanding prevail. Mother and daughter help the father recover the past of which he was robbed (or was he?), but is this really possible? The family strives for a better world, hence the title in Spanish.

It's an unusual film, and very watchable. At 90 minutes or so, it's very bearable. Despite its inherently slow paced theme, another (more vain) director may have wanted to add another 20 or 30 minutes. This director wisely chose not to do this, and not compromise the mystery and the fine pacing which characterizes this family drama.

Saratan
(2005)

The Rio/SP FilmFests' Unofficial Critic's Note:A Slice of life in Post-Soviet Kyrghistan
This is my second comment as "The Rio/SP FilmFest Unofficial critic", or should I say, information provider. Having participated and seen over 200 films at the 2004 and 2005 Rio & S.Paulo(Brazil) FilmFests, I've decided to add a general comment about every film of note with NO IMDb comment, for the benefit of the clueless viewer like myself prior to seeing this film.

Strange that this film, unusual just by its origin - Kyrghistan, has not been commented on. Here in Rio alone, it was shown at four different sessions; and this was by no means its premier. The film is similar to the simple Iranian films often shown in the West; intended for the export audience audience rather than for the home audience, which may not understand why anyone outside (or inside) the country would want to see a film of such common place banality.

The reason for such little enthusiasm by IMDb's comment writers, is probably that we have seen so many of these simple films before. The difficult situations are the same in Iran, in the Former Soviet Union, and other countries, even if not caused by the same rupture. But humankind is pretty similar at the small village level. And the problems faced by small, disenfranchised villages everywhere in "exotic" places are not that exotic.

But there will always be a market, I guess, for these movies. In my head, personally, these "day in the life of a village" movies are beginning to blur. And I HAVE A GOOD MEMORY, AND HAVE TRAVELED WIDELY.

I WENT TO SEE THIS MOVIE, AS I HAD A PASS FOR IT AND IT PRECEDED A FILM I REALLY WANTED TO SEE; I'D GUARANTEE A GOOD SEAT FOR IT BY SITTING THROUGH THIS ONE, and thought maybe there was something special about Kyrghistan. I knew it was a Turkic country like Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan (countries which I had seen similar films from recently), but my only other connection to the place were the Kyrghiz Air Jets I've often seen at Istanbul Airport.

The film didn't give me any new insight on the country. It in fact reminded me a lot about a film from Outer Mongolia recently seen (but without the cold igloo life of this other country). The characters are "cutesy", I guess. So for the film's simplicity, good acting from the town's "simple folks", and the fact that something from such an obscure (for us) country was shown here, I give it an 8. The "naughty" scenes, usually not shown in otherwise-similar Islamic films, made it more watchable than many of the artsy and over-puritanical Iranian films, some foreigners simply rave about. about.

The plot revolves around the general dissatisfaction in a very small Kyrghiz village. Everyone lives by doing whatever they can to get by, and so even the one single policeman has a hard time keeping the peace, though he often has a "hard time" with some of the promiscuous married women of the town when he gets a chance.

The inhabitants of course still live with the hardships caused by "Moscow sending no money anymore," possibly the population's biggest gripe. And, bored with nothing to do and no work, some still argue with fervor about Communist ideology, while others mock it in a few entertaining ways.

But in all, we've seen it before, many times. Not just from this particular village in Central Asia. Maybe that novelty is what led to the film's participation in the "Panorama" Section of the 2005 Berlin Festival, the pedigree which probably landed the film here, and maybe over your way soon.

@Festivbercine.ron
(2004)

The Rio/SP FilmFests' Unofficial Critic's Note:A light,witty film for a break from madness
Having participated and seen over 200 films at the 2004 and 2005 Rio & S.Paulo(Brazil) FilmFests, I've decided to add a general comment about every film of note with NO IMDb comment, for the benefit of the clueless viewer like myself prior to seeing this film.

Actually, Sao Paulo 2005 starts in a few days, but I've ALREADY SCREENED MORE THAN HALF OF THE FEATURE FILMS TO BE SHOWN HERE AT THE EARLIER RIO FILM FESTIVAL September 22 to this past October 6th. I'm therefore calling my comments The Rio/SP Unofficial Critic's Note. In case you see more than one comment, you'll know I am doing this as a service and not trying to break a record for posting comments, just giving out pretty bland info, since nobody else has, I have the time, and you deserve to have some background info. Again, only films which have NO comment at all and little info will be commented on.

On that note (forgive my explanations, this is my first comment as the unofficial information provider), I'm also motivated to write by the lack of information on worthy films which for unexplainable reasons, have little information and NO comment at all in the IMDb site. Many do not even appear as a title in this site until a year later sometimes - the case of this film, and it had played two earlier European festivals of note (listed by the IMDb) months before the film got to Brazil a year ago.

In the case of this film, it features very well known Latin stars. Too bad these films' producers don't submit their films to these sites. Most of these films (if not all) are quickly forgotten, if at all seen. But what can you expect when the producers and distributors and distributors don't care to submit them? Some of them are quite good actually. But with no publicity, they are seen by few people.

THIS FILM IS NOT one of the "quite good ones" just mentioned. BUT, for any Film Festival Goer, PARTICULARLY A Latin FILM FESTIVAL GOER, it is a welcome and relevant break in the middle of one of these festivals.

The film pokes fun at what is happening at events like the one we're at now. For 50% of the Western World's Festival Market (which is Latin: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or French speakers, in Europe, the Americas, even Africa), this film is a light, witty film, absolutely perfect for that target audience.

For those not familiar with Latin stars and culture, but with film culture, it will also be a movie, you can relate to totally. The different stereotypes are everywhere worldwide: the first time movie director trying to break the ice, the "festival junkies" or groupies sneaking into parties, and pulling all kinds of ridiculous publicity stunts just for attention, the party crashers, wannabees, and in this movie's case, a wonderful, if somewhat over the top, satire on the now many-years-long trend to make any movie in English, so it can appeal to the "wide market", no matter how ridiculous this exercise is.

This is the main plot line of this picture as a director/actress couple try to publicize their "ultimate" Latin American movie, spoken in English!! Of course, this trend and this example is not even that ridiculous anymore since Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables" and Napoleon's "definitive" story have been recently filmed in English, by the biggest names in acting, appropriately French and Italian (for the Bonaparte family), but spoken, and mouthed TOTALLY in English. My, how the French have fallen, allowing Gérard Depardieu's Jean Valjean to deliver Victor Hugo's prose in English; to have Napoleon and his family speaking only in English!

Therefore, I send out my congratulations to this team of "@Festivbercine.ron" film creators for a film, which a couple of years ago, foresaw as ridiculous what has become commonplace now. And again, the film's a great break during a film festival. It will put the whole event in perspective back for you, and aid in preserving your sanity through situations like these film festivals, and in a light and very likable way. See it if you can.

Selves and Others: A Portrait of Edward Said
(2004)

The last days of the Palestinian's cause greatest intellectual
A must see, this documentary (not be confused with the much longer and comprehensive 2004 biopic) brings us Saïd's last days, prior to his untimely death in 2003.

In a twist of fate, a French crew armed with a Betamax recorder spent time with him and his family at the end of his life, offering us an exceptionally intimate look at his (literally) final views and reflections on the themes which dominated his life's work.

Based on the ratings and number of votes I saw on this site for the 2004 documentary, I think many users voted for that film, though meaning to judge and actually having seen this one, which continues to have more exposure in the Americas, in the Third World, and most importantly politics aside (as much as that's possible). Both films deserve the excellent rating they boast. Your rating really depends on your interest and attention span.

However, this film, at a captivating 54 minutes and with its unique timing has a touch of reality and conciseness that the other one lacks, by mere timeliness and authenticity. This film directed by Emmanuel Hamon has also enjoyed the personal and forceful promotion by him himself, the director, and by the Institute of Arab Culture, throughout Brazil, at least, where I have now accompanied its showing at, two or three more festivals here in less than 9 months.

And, NOT just at another Arab Film Festival, or a usual semi annual showing of national performing arts, but a full fledge Mediterranean Festival of dance, music, theater, literature, gastronomy, fashion, children's activities, etc. at over 60 cities and towns in Southeastern Brazil alone.

The Israeli Festival, coincidentally, also with excellent films, in much richer if not opulent venues, with Rubin Mehta and Israel Orchestra's, just as a by-the-way factoid, just ended days ago. It was however mostly funded by Jewish and Israeli group, while this one is funded primarily by the Business and Educational Council. The timing was not planned to compete with each other.

The various "Mediterranean" groups were on tour throughout the area just now. The "Jewish week" is always around this time, and wa1s planned for months.

Yes, Sao Paulo (city) alone is a metropolis of 20 million alone - the state has 40 million, with one of the heaviest and maybe the best succeeded Arab & Syriain-Lebanese immigrant communities anywhere in the world. But, it's almost totally Christian. In fact (though not totally open said), the Arab community here is more in tune with mainstream Israeli politics, than the Orthodox Jews we have here, since they are Arabs, but Christians, and very Orthodox at that, in the best known cases.

The Syria, Palestine and Lebanon left behind, and still revered here as the "old land" no longer exists, as these Arab-Brazilians came here to avoid Turkish Ottoman (Muslim) persecution, which ultimately prevailed.

But, not insisting so much on local ethnicities and returning to this film, I mist say that in few if any places in the world, can a film like this and others in the Films Section be seen and judged as an Arab film, and not as Muslim culture vs. the Judeo-Christian world Work.

And this is truly a film of universal understanding, with national and religious prejudices taking a back seat here. Don't miss it.

Entre chiens et loups
(2002)

Typecast French Actors lip-sync-hing their dubbed American accents
Overall, the film is exceptional for what it is. That is, an imitation American crime thriller with a catchy plot mostly in exotic, little seen Romanian locales. If that's what you want to see, then I rate it a 9. I also rate it a 9 for the producer's ambition to make this French film a totally Hollywood-looking production, including the now mandatory shoots in Central/Eastern Europe. And in this requisite, we are spared of the tired Czech Republic, and get a glimpse of little-seen and fascinating (I mean that - have been there several times) Romania. That is also worth a lot points.

The Romanian locations are beautiful, and obviously very cheap for the producers. Anyone who's been there (particularly British and Dutch skiers flocking to the Transylvania mountains) will know that prices are a great side benefit of visiting a Romania, if not the main reason itself for skiing, or shooting scenes there.

So, both the viewers and the investors win with this decision. The action scenes are as good as in any Hollywood film of this moderate caliber or budget, and thus score high points in that category as well.

Taking the main story line out of France also makes the obvious American English dubbing of the two lead French actors less of a distraction, though for some viewers it may be just too weird to bear. After all, both Berry and Saïd have appeared in many English speaking roles, especially recently. And the film tries to be both, but the lips don't lie.

So, the viewer drawn to the film will immediately notice the "too neutral to be real" American accidents don't belong to these (or any other) film actor. At the same time, everyone (including inside contemporary French penitentiaries) is lip sync-hing English, with only trained American voices to be heard "partout". Only Berry's young son (whose mouth is well covered by a telephone) is not shown moving his lips in the so-out of place language. A few more points for this surreal treat.

In fact, the only French to be heard is in some background music. Even airport announcements at Roissy Airport are in English only. The only Romanian heard (this site lists the film's languages as French/Romanian) is part of an in-flight welcome announcement aboard TAROM Airlines to Bucharest.

To be fair though, the multi-lingual Portuguese actor Joaquim De Almeida does speak in English, and in his own voice. But of course, he's playing a Romanian. Whether a British accented version of this film exists, I don't know. You'd think in the European Union, they would adopt British English as the standard and not the American version.

But here in South America (and indeed all of Zone 4), the DVD's original language version is American English. In France it is dubbed into French, presumably with Saïd and Berry's real voices, while they are mouthing off English. In fact, I only learned on this site that the film's "real" title is "Entre Chiens et Loups" as DVD versions refer to the English title as the original title.

I enjoyed it tremendously, but I know Romania, I'm an American living abroad, and a longtime fan of French cinema and culture. I could appreciate both the entertainment value of the film, the weirdness of its origins, and the bitter-sweet taste of seeing a major French (of all nationalities!) production succumbing not just to English, but to its American version.

Recently, I had already seen two major French actors, Depardieu and Saïd (also a lead here) speaking to each other in English in another French action flick spoken, artificially spoken in English, CRIME SPREE. That film had some French dialog though, and when the French actors spoke, they used their natural French accents and voices. But this film here is better (not due to the bizarre language issue), more entertaining and infinitely weirder in its search for an identity.

Is this confusing compromise what globalization promises? Or is it just really Americanization, which Europeans are too afraid or proud to openly call its by its name?

Ciudad del sol
(2003)

Yet Another Film about "The Disappeared"- One you should miss!
Films about the "desaparecidos" - the thousands who disappeared during the Argentine military government have become a major sub group of the country's national cinema history. Many of them have been good. One of the first ones won the 1985 Foreign Film Oscar.

This film, however, is among the most boring and unwatchable of the group, if not THE most to date. Even an impressive cast, the screen writer (known for her TV work) and director could not make a decent "desaparecidos" movie. Forget the fact that the genre has become overworked and tiresome, this flick is simply a yawner.

It is no accident that this film was ripped apart, if not dismissed and unnoticed, by Argentine critics and moviegoers. I just saw it on Latin HBO by chance, unaware of its reviews or box office failure. I only found out above these facts through links on this site, by the way.

I knew I couldn't be alone, if I was unable to view this film in its entirety, on a rainy afternoon, on the 3rd day in a row of rain while on a beach vacation. I rarely dismiss a film totally, and make very negative comments about it. This one deserves them. Skip it.

Sangrita
(2004)

Strange, incoherent & bloody sex orgy video
The term "Sangrita" - little blood in Spanish - is referenced in this film as a bloody sex game one of the characters likes to play. The synopsis of the movie given by the S. Paulo Film Festival staff suggests an innovative kinky sex movie, but not cheap porn, on cheap video.

There are a couple of other solid productions in this festival dealing with domination, pain - whipping, spanking and extreme piercing as orgasmic. So, there was no reason for me to doubt that this Argentinian production had some value. I did not know it was in low grade video, however. That would have warned me.

The film (a projected video of very low quality and resolution) is all about a sex game involving blood. All the action, if you can call it that, occurs on one set - consisting of a bedroom, living room, and a pool.

For a film which includes medical close ups of vaginal labia, pubic hair, and stooping females, one would expect better quality video, or regular film. It is cinema after all. To explain this last comment, one of the characters is a doctor, and one of the two girls is concerned about an abnormality in her lower labia, seen in a dimension of about forty feet (on the screen I saw it). It's more and bigger detail than most gynecologists have ever seen. Well, that's the highlight (the only memorable scene for shock value) of the film anyway.

The rest is mere indulgence of a petty sex fantasy in a plain set, with no intelligent dialog, two attractive young girls into S&M, bondage, blood, and exposure of their vagina and pubic hair. If that sounds good to you, wait! Unfortunately, you must equally endure the sight of a severely overweight 50 or 55 year old man (so fat we hardly see his penis - only his pubic hair) while he swims like a whale in the pool underwater. His opposite, a barely 20 year old, slim and pretty female, also with plenty of hair down there, swims with him or after him: who knows? At this point of the movie, who cares?

There is also blood. But, to be kind, not much of a plot; what there is - is projected on the screen as in silent movies. Maybe they should have called this film "Pubic" instead. in any case, how this film (sorry, low-quality video), made it to a very large and respected film festival is very surprising.

It is not even a good porno film. There is too much senseless dialog and little action to even attract those who may be aroused by pubic hair, blown up vagina close ups, blood, and severely overweight older men with no visible organ. Most people say "well, expect this weird nonsense at these artsy film festivals." But the festival where I saw it is not an S & M or fantasy sex festival for almost-zero budget productions. We have two festivals a year for productions of that sort. It's all very strange.

Épouse-moi
(2000)

Boring "comedy" focusing on confusing couple-swapping & Parisian clichés
This is the kind of French romantic comedy or drama (you decide) which gives the genre a bad name. Set in a very stylized Paris, the film drew me (and probably most viewers) with its very well-known cast. This is a rarity, as these light mass audience films usually feature one or two "known" names. Here we have four of the biggest names in the last 12 years of French cinema, all of which have performed in at least a couple of English language films, and in other European languages. They are among the rare actors popular both in box office hits and in the film festival circuit. And they are mostly pretty young, and in their prime.

So, their names attracts audiences from outside the French film world as well. If this weren't the case, I would not have caught it in an afternoon movie session in Brazilian TV! Unfortunately, this causes the perpetration of the negative "French film" stigma: that worldwide prejudice which keeps many moviegoers (including in France) far from any "French Film."

The film focuses on the most pervasive Parisian clichés to tell its story. Perhaps the film's setting in Paris needed to be overstated. In any case, Paris and its related post card clichés are exploited without mercy. At first, one even wonders if this is perhaps a satire of a French comedy. How did these actors, all then and still now at their peak (the film is from 2000/2001) accept to do this movie?

Well, as our story begins, we meet a young woman (played by an actress in a role type which now defines her) who'll do anything to keep her husband; played by another actor, also cast in a role you've seen him in often. The young woman visits a psychic magician, who is of course Yugoslavian - aren't the best gypsy psychics from there? Besides, that's exactly the quirky type "character role" this actor from the former Yugoslavia plays all the time in French movies recently seen.

The psychic foresees a rather dark love life for the woman. Another woman, and another man are in the picture. But as she wants a happy ending, she insists on another reading. This subjects us viewers to the predictable, tedious alternatives that two couples routinely encounter in the contemporary "European comedies" we've seen before.

Since they're in Paris, a famous landmark will of course be a focal point for casual meetings, willing or unwilling suicide attempts, saving lives, and metal-structure climbing and jumping. Surprise, they're using the Eiffel Tower. The "Arc de Triomphe" is also used in a scene where one character mistakes an extreme sports jumper for a suicidal lunatic. But the Eiffel Tower gets most of the choice scenes.

If the script sounds original and entertaining so far, then you'll probably enjoy the movie. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and use your precious time in a better way.

Navalha na Carne
(1997)

Watch the better, now classic 1969 version instead!
The 1969 version of this same screenplay is infinitely better. For one thing, the themes (prostitution, pimping, homosexuality) and subject matter (psychological & sexual humiliation and domination, with very vulgar language) were edgier and more shocking then. Especially when taking into consideration Brazil was in the middle of the 1964-1984 right wing Military Dictatorship. The black and white cinematography add to the atmosphere, and the cast (top notch at its time) of the original include Brazilian screen legends, a couple still active on TV today.

The film is based on a play by Plínio Marcos, and this 1997 remake is and feels dated as are its stars, who are at least 10 years too old for their roles (and in average 10 years older than the actors and ages mentioned in the lines of the 1969 film). Watch the 1969 version instead if you can.

If you have access to Brazilian Cable or satellite TV, you can catch both (at least this year, and probably through 2006) on Canal Brazil, dedicated to national cinema and the only all-Brazilian movie channel usually part of all cable and satellite packages and transmissions.

This is not a plug. This channel is the only place you'll ever be able to catch old Brazilian films, as most were never transferred to video, let alone DVD (except half a dozen "classics" - usually considered as such by foreigners and not by Brazilians themselves). So, watch out for either version of "Razor in the Flesh" - this title in English, also a literal translation. Both versions prove that Brazilian film and social norms have always been so progressive and permissive, in many ways the country has always been unlike any other in the Americas.

India Cabaret
(1985)

Stereotypes of Bombay's tarts revealed
In 1988, before SALAAM BOMBAY brought international fame, Mira Nair filmed four TV documentaries investigating diverse aspects of Indian society. INDIA CABARET was one of them, one which won the Indian Director a few international festival awards for best documentary.

As in the festivals, this TV film is currently being shown here in 16mm format, offering cinematic images, during its 58 minutes of duration. Set in a decadent Bombay night club, INDIA CABARET shows us two strippers discussing their lives, revealing several female stereotypes within Indian (more precisely, Bombay) society.

This work is of female interest, in the social sense (not just for women, but for those eager to explore situations faced by women) worldwide. Like others in this film cycle entitled "Women in Turmoil" presented by a prestigious national cultural center, it is recommended for those interested in the themes exposed in what is a quality documentary.

Pfui, Rosa!
(2002)

A real treat for Von Praunheim fans
This documentary is a treat for Rosa von Praunheim fans, and a good introduction to those not familiar with him, but interested in the life and times of the die-hard European "enfant terrible" of cinema.

Rosa has remained a rebel, even now past age 60 (his 60th birthday being the doc's main theme). This attachment to his roots and stubborn intransigence on "professional advancement to the mainstream" contrast sharply to other European ex-underground, ex-trash and love-to-shock film directors such as Almodóvar, the best example of what Von Praunheim could have been, or still could be. The two also share an uncanny amount of common traits, personally and professionally.

Where as Almodóvar went mainstream or "matured," Rosa has remained the militant rebel, still using shock value to make a difference and get points across which he thinks need to be stressed. Rosa has made good mainstream films like THE EINSTEIN OF SEX, and could apparently have gone in that direction, but is apparently adamant about continuing with nouveau trash films with ever more shock value, and documentaries.

I just don't mean this one, but many in the last decade about other eccentric German personalities - the ageless East German transsexual Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, the already mentioned EINSTEIN OF SEX - Magnus Hirschfeld, the outrageous Berlin cabaret performers (also frequent cast members in Rosa's films) in QUEENS DON'T LIE, and last but definitely NOT least, R. Werner Fassbinder in Rosa's recent exposé-documentary FOR ME, THERE'S NO ONE LIKE FASSBINDER.

This documentary is not by any means his first autobiographical one. First, all his films are somewhat autobiographical. But, in the last seven years, he has made three autobiographical films, NEUROSIA (50 years of perversion) - I think the best of the lot, QUEENS DON'T LIE - which can be argued is more autobiographical about his closest collaborators, but nevertheless Rosa is at the center, and now for his 60th birthday - this film.

Actually, a 70 minute TV program for the very respectable WDR (West German TV Network) and ARTE (the Franco-German "artsy" cable channel), the documentary repeats many of the scenes, film clips, and interviews in NEUROSIA and QUEENS DON'T LIE. Apparently, there is great interest and insatiable thirst for info about Rosa's life when so many similar documentaries are made, financed by large prestigious studios, and released worldwide.

Please keep in mind I'm in Brazil, and the film has already been shown here a couple of times, a month or two after its first showing! His last two documentaries were also shown here shortly after their premiere. His EINSTEIN OF SEX was shown here in October of 1999 months before its official premiere. And not at a gay festival, but at the straight and "serious" S. Paulo International Film Festival - and was among the ten most attended and highest rated films of the 360 film + Fest. It was later released here theatrically, in video, and in cable TV, where the 1999 film still plays occasionally by the way.

So, this latest very self indulgent auto biopic puts all of Rosa's life together for us (once again). For his fans, it's mostly all "déjà vu", but worth seeing. The biggest novelty is the dominating presence of his mother and of Rosa's on and off lover/companion for 25+ years, who reveal personal and family details unknown until now.

I won't specify, lest they be "spoilers," get me in trouble, and ruin the surprise for you. But, I hope you enjoy it knowing before hand the film is yet another very self-indulgent film, filled with Rosa's "grandiosity" and eccentricity, full of repetitive material if you've seen his documentaries in the last 7 or 8 years. I guess we can expect another one when he turns 65!

Die Skrupellosen.com
(2003)

Amateurish and awful
This film (more like a poor-quality blown up video) was presented in its premiere here on October 21st by its Italian director, Swan. As eccentric and enigmatic as is his name, "Swan" asked the audience to enjoy the picture, though he had no idea what the dialogs were about, as he was an Italian, living in Austria, who speaks no German.

That he speaks no German is obvious. The lead actor (a black man, who speaks in African-accented French in some scenes) apparently does not either. His lines are delivered in monotone, language school - like dialogs. If he did not recite these lines phonetically, then he deserves an award for impersonating an actor who is delivering memorized phonetically learned lines, with no emotion.

The other actors may speak more naturally, but their acting is not much better. The plot, the acting, the look of the film suggest a "faux" trash film of the 70s and 80s. That may indeed be the director's intention. No other information about the film was available at the time of the 3 showings here, so who knows at this point?

The film was not even reviewed here, though "Swan" was one of the competing directors who attended the festival, and related seminars with other directors, film critics, cinema buffs and students. But, with over 400 films shown in 2 weeks, that's not too unusual. However, the film's page at the Festival Site, and in the program suggest a serious movie, presented in the New Directors Section of the Festival.

Not surprisingly, the film was among the least attended of the New Director's Section (according to the Festival's Site statistics), though it was shown on three different days and occasions. Many like me just couldn't believe how plainly awful this picture is, or were embarrassed they may have "misunderstood" it. As a German speaker, familiar with Vienna, I think I understood it, and realized I wasted almost two hours of my life on it.

Xiari nuanyangyang
(2001)

Surprising action on the streets of modern Beijing
I LOVE BEIJING is truly a mosaic of Beijing today, as seen, mostly, through the eyes of a womanizing taxi driver.

The driver has quite an array of female passengers in his cab and life. The film takes us through "a year in the life." His taxi takes us through his life and this city in total transformation.

The result is an realistic portrait of the multiplicity of contemporary Beijing. I can't think of a better medium or vehicle than a taxi to highlight the tremendous changes in China today, as experienced by the common man, and as seen through the windows of his cab.

Bufo & Spallanzani
(2001)

Arguably, the best Brazilian film of the year! Definitely the best thriller
This thriller (an unusual film genre in Brazilian cinema)is based on the brilliant best-seller from Brazil's current master novelist. It is quite a task to bring such an elliptical novel like this one to film. With its many philosophical themes, unusual scientific data, and a complex plot in a few time frames, the film adaptation would predictably be difficult to follow.

Yet it isn't. Even though most of the characters appear very differently in the two general time periods of the plot, a present one, and one a decade before, the action and the suspense flows very well.

I, for one, prefer an intelligent, timely urban Brazilian film to the "art house" favorites of late like "Central Station", "Me, You Them" and others. The fact is Brazil's population is 70% to 80% urban (one of the highest among large countries). Therefore, these films in urban settings are much more relevant to what is really happening in the country.

"Me, You, Them" and "Auto da Compadecida" may be very folksy and unusual films. But the vast majority of Brazil is not at all rural like India or China. Most Brazilian films released abroad suggest a Brazil predominantly rural, full of exotic villages as India or China. That just is not the case. Yes, Brazil has them, but they are over represented in its cinema for export.

May many more films like this one and "Tolerancia" and "Cronicamente Inviavel" (also excellent contemporary urban dramas) be released both within the country and abroad. It would not only educate more people in the more general reality of the country. It would also bring in a broad box office base and create a still inexistent wide audience which appreciates this kind of films.

This audience is turned off by the mere mention of "Brazilian movie" because of the recently exotic & rural nature of the films. This is not another "Brazilian movie." It is an exceptional film, and in my opinion, the best of 2000, along with the other two mentioned. See it if you can.

Operación Fangio
(1999)

Double proof that politics and sports don't mix
This disastrous film-disastrous artistically, financially, critically,...-is yet another horrendous "Cubaxplotion" pictures. These have been yielding a mixed bag of good and bad films since about l990, when former benefactor-the Soviet Union stopped subsidizing the island.

Most of these "new" Cuban films wear on their sleeves the odd collaboration between hard line (now a relic) communism, and shameless capitalism from Europe. Coming particularly from Germany and Spain, though Mexico and Argentina have also gotten in to the act.

While some have succeeded at many and all levels, that is clearly not the case with OPERACION FANGIO. This is, as the epilogue in the film states " a loose reenactment of the February 1958 Second Cuban World Automobile Championships in Havana." Loose indeed.

That would be no problem if the movie were worthwhile in any aspect. Veracity is not a requisite for a good film. But the movie is neither entertaining, well made, or historically correct. In spite of pulling out all the stops of the "Cubaxplotation" genre, nothing can rescue this film.

It is sad to the talents of two great Argentine actors, Dario Granadetti (as Fangio) and Hector Alterio (as the Argentine ambassador)as shallow caricatures. Equally embarrassing is the veteran Spanish actor, Fernando Guillen sporting a laughable Italian accent.

The recreation of 1958 Havana has been done better in (I hate to say it)American films, and other anti-Castro Cuban exile films using other locations. A good recent example is ANTES DE ANOCHECER (Before Night Falls), an independent co-production without the budgets and nearly unlimited possibilities "Operacion Fangio" had. It was filmed in Mexico (though most films use Santo Domingo, DR as a Havana substitute). With a small budget, the makers of "Before Night Falls," restored, repainted and recreated a former Havana far more palatable, let alone believable, than seen in "O. Fangio."

Havana of 1958 in this film looks, well... like Havana of 2000, highlighting the now 42 year long decay of this once-grand city. One would think that some buildings would have been repainted (at least the facades), and more period detail other than the occasional phony "Esso" and "Drink Canada Dry" billboards. The racial composition of the city is shown as it is now, and not as it was 40 years ago, when the look of the people (ethnic make up) was completely different.

It is unbelievable that with the unprecedented state support this movie received, it can be so awful. It may be that all that state support implied a compromise with the co-producers, as the present regime "loosely" rewrote history- the 1958 Havana appearance by Fangio, now due to the date and many factors all too apparent (actually distracting)in the movie. The state support included closing the main thoroughfares in Havana days on ends for filming, and busing state workers to create a fabulous number of unpaid extras at full disposal. Nevertheless, the film does not look for one minute like the Havana of 1958.

With the former Soviet funding, Cuba made outstanding pictures with clear propaganda purposes, rewriting history. But they were outstanding movies, critically-acclaimed worldwide. It is sad that less and less, Cuba is lending itself to third rate films, and sadder than major European and Latin American entities are exploiting the dire economic situation to make many "grand" productions, which nobody sees, or worse no one cares about. Try finding a copy of this video, and other recent "Cubaxplotation" like the Spanish "Cuba" (2000), or the semi-German "Kleines Tropicana."

Above all other issues (which contribute to the mediocrity), this is one boring film. Actually, I don't know why I have written this? If few people have seen (or even heard of this film), who would want to read this? Anyway, here it is.

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