Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Vidas Privadas (2001)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

Thanks to American cultural imperialism, Hollywood doesn't have to provide historical, geographic or cultural background to plots set in particular times and places. Few American filmmakers have to bother with explaining who fought who in American Civil War or on Normandy beaches. This is a luxury non-American filmmakers can't afford, and one of good examples is VIDAS PRIVADAS, 2001 Spanish-Argentine co-production written and directed by Fito Paez.

Protagonist of the film Carmen Uranga (played by Cecilia Roth), Argentine woman who spent two decades in Madrid. She reluctantly returns to her native Buenos Aires in order to visit her ailing father and settle some inheritance issues. Carmen also has more personal problem in her inability to have normal sexual relations. Instead she arranges couples to have sex while she listens. One of the hired performers is aspiring male model Gustavo "Gana" Bertollini (played by Gael Garcia Bernal). After one "regular" session, Carmen hires him to read pornographic fiction, unaware that the youth will fall in love with her and that the relationship will ultimately with return of some painful memories.

VIDAS PRIVADAS is well-acted film, which isn't that surprising with Cecilia Roth, the most respected Argentine actress and Paez's real life wife, playing the lead role. She is also helped with a small but very good cast of Argentine actors and Mexican superstar Gael Garcia Bernal. Strong acting, however, won't compensate some serious flaws in script and direction. The beginning of the film, when audience meets characters in all their quirkiness, is the best, but the second half represents big disappointment with "surprising" plot twist that belongs more to telenovela than serious drama. Paez also has some problems with direction, making some scenes rushed and confusing. But the worst problem is in average viewers' inability to properly comprehend the film due to their lack of familiarity with certain tragic chapters of Argentine history. Those chapters are the very essence of the plot's resolution and without them film loses much of its impact. Argentine viewers probably won't have problem understanding what this movie is all about, but the rest of the audience will be at odds with its cryptic nature.

RATING: 4/10 (+)



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