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Too much emphasis on author's sex life
7 October 2004
This supposed biography of the famous Argentine writer's last years is flawed and confusing. The film deals with the author's last years in exile in Rio, but with a heavy hand on his sex life. While that may be one of a person's most defining aspects, anyone (and many did) who accompanied his life and work here in Rio, knows the film does not do justice to his life; it does not make sense. This was where KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, just to name one play, first became a hit, and later made into a movie (also here in Brazil, though with American English dialog).

One wonders how the author depicted in this film could be the same one who wrote wonderful plays, and socially was pretty much a recluse here, until his death. This view, by the way, has been echoed by the critics who have seen it here at the Rio Film Festival, as part of the Gay World Sidebar. The film itself is not too bad, but the facts aren't straight (pardon the pun).
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You I Love (2004)
Very Russian!
7 October 2004
This film, mostly shown outside Russia in gay film festivals, is not mainly a gay film, but rather a statement on diversity in Russia today. Having said that, it is also very stereotypically Russian in its length, cinematography, and in relying on subtleties to tell the truth. The exception to this is sex and nudity. These are not subtle, not very explicit either, but enough to say to the audience "look, how modern we are" while "hotter" issues (homosexuality, inequality between racial groups, economic and political crisis) are self censored.

Still, this is a step forward in free expression for Russian cinema. They still have to masquerade homosexuality as bisexuality (though foreign executives, corrupt politicians, and young hustlers can be gay - this shows where Russian society, at its most liberal level, accepts sexual diversity). It's OK as long as the "normal people" in society aren't gay - bisexual at most. Likewise, the huge socio economic gap existing between "ethnic Russians" and the eastern, more Asian looking ones, is glossed over with cute prejudice and cultural clichés.

We see a very stylized "Sex and the City" -like Moscow: one where, for the most part, people live in luxury apartments, drive expensive cars, and are sexually liberal, even between races and sexes, and threesomes. But hey, it's a movie. Enjoy!
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Informative, heart-wrenching documentary about East Timor´s Holocaust
13 November 2001
The title of this film expresses well what you´ll get from this documentary. It is about a twenty five year long massacre/genocide of the East Timorese people. East Timor was annexed by Indonesia after independence from Portugal in 1974, followed by a planned genocide of the people, not limited to mass killings and provoked- civil war, but included the sterilization of East Timorese women by the Indonesians to reduce the population of East Timor´s native ethic group. A third of the population, it is believed, was killed.

Brazilian actress, Lucélia Santos, has done an excellent job in creating a documentary about a country which is virtually in shambles. After her long stay in East Timor, in appalling conditions, and using interviews from experts, and archival footage, Ms. Santos has given us the definitive documentary of the plight, and hope for this long suffering people
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Comedic drama addressing a serious issue
13 November 2001
This Uruguayan film, one of the most popular films shown at the recent São Paulo Film Festival after breaking box office records at home, is a funny and intelligent film.

It addresses an important ongoing, unresolved pan-Latin American issue which, inexplicably, has not been depicted as it deserves to be, in either Spanish or Latin America cinema. That is, up to now.

Since the 1980s, unemployed, impoverished Latin American women have been lured to Spain, somewhat knowingly or unknowingly, to support their families at home through prostitution. However, once in Spain, these women´s passports and freedom are taken away. They become sex slaves, often with no way out, with no pay, and no one to turn to for help.

This film, mixes comedy, drama, social commentary, tragedy, and the sense of hope, all to great effect. If it plays at a film festival near you, as it may soon, I would definitely recommend this unusual, funny, and touching film.
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A film in harmony with classical music
21 June 2001
This is a film by a classical musician-turned-film maker. In this, her first feature length film, Lina Chamie shares her common view of cinema and music; that is, as art forms where both occur during a given span of time and where both are marked by rhythm.

In this film, the director seals the union of the two art forms-film & music, (1) in its plot: basically, three days in the life of a young male clarinet player & (2)in its structure-set in three scenes or is it three movements of an orchestral arrangement? The young musician's story overlaps with a story of artistic creativity.

The movie achieves its goal of comparing music and movies to a great degree. This is a poetic film, one with little dialogue, and lots of music and imagery. However, this is not at all negative. or boring. The film features beautiful symphonic music from the likes of Schubert and Bach.
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Maids (2001)
Bitter-sweet take on the lives of maids in Brazil
20 June 2001
This film, a bitter sweet comedic drama, deals with the rough, intertwined lives of a handful of 'domestics' in the largest metropolis in Brazil (and in South America). Adapted from a hit play of the same name on the Sao Paulo stage, the big screen enhances all aspects of the play considerably. One would not think this film had its origin in a play. Such is the success of the adapted screenplay, that the wonders of cinematic touches shine brilliantly.

The plot takes us through the day to day work, and personal lives of the characters, who all know each other, and in some cases, share intimate personal lives as well. Their poignant struggle against the challenges of the huge metropolis, and the difficult balancing of work, family, and different inter personal relationships, is poignantly told. This is one of the freshest, most interesting takes on the plight and delights of domestics, I have ever seen, and I highly recommend the film.
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Cuba (I) (2002)
A visually stunning historical epic
20 June 2001
This film was truly a surprise for me. After seeing that it was a Spanish-Cuban co-production, and considering the material, I thought it would be mediocre, better suited for TV material, not to mention propagandistic. But I was terribly wrong.

Instead, this film offers us all the best such a co-production can offer. The virtually unlimited use of original, historical locales (spruced up for the filming), gorgeous costumes, a cast of hundreds... Things that are only possible, or with a $100 million plus budget, or if shot in a country like today's Cuba, which puts almost unlimited resources at the disposal of film makers in return for the money spent filming on the island.

The Spanish cast, a few of which play Cuban roles, is very convincing. It is interesting to see the "son" in "All About My Mother" as an adult, and officer in the Spanish Army. Other well-known Spanish and Cuban stars also have meaty roles, and play them for all the characters can offer.

In scope, grandeur, attention to detail, and as a chronicle of a crucial phase in Cuba's country, this film is very much like GONE WITH THE WIND. The historical perspective presented is very enlightening. The Cubans do make some interesting, rarely seen, relevant points on the stormy state of Cuban-American relationships throughout Cuba's history. However, since the film is a European co-production, the ideology never goes too far. Not as far as I think the Cubans would have taken it had it been an independent production of their own.

But that's why a film like this had never appeared before. It was not feasible economically for Cuba, before or since Castro, to undertake such a production. Now, with the right conditions, such an epic about the Cuban struggle for independence is finally out (and on PAL Video, by the way). And it is quite stunning. I'm surprised I did not hear much buzz about this film prior to its video release this year. If you enjoy historical epics, don't miss this one.
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