Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

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Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

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Article excerpt

UNDERTOW Cert 15, I00 mins IT CAN'T be easy being bisexual in a small fishing village in Peru, and Javier Fuentes-Leon's first feature tells us exactly why. The well-respected Miguel (Cristian Mercado) has a pregnant bride (Tatiana Astengo) and fusses around her with fatherly pride. But he is also attracted to Santiago (Manolo Cardona), a visiting painter who has been virtually ostracised by the locals because they have guessed he is gay.

When Santiago drowns in a tragic accident involving the sea's strong undertow, his spirit returns to make love to Miguel. He is the only one able to see his lover and thus free to express his burgeoning feelings without fear. But only when Santiago's body is found and buried can his spirit be freed from torment.

Magic realism seems to be the appropriate way to describe Undertow but it is as much about Miguel coming to terms with his sexuality, and with the conservative community's acceptance, as a ghostly tale. And it ends with a moving burial scene that underlines everything that has gone before.

Fuentes-Leon takes no sides. Instead he carefully explains the dilemma facing the three principal characters without any false dramatics. He doesn't push the envelope too far but this is still an unusual, nuanced and daring film, particularly considering the country it comes from.

ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLONDE-HAIRED GIRL Cert U, 64 mins HE MAY be nearing 102 but Manoel de Oliveira, the only director still working who has made silent films, knows how to tell a story. It looks all very simple, with no messing about with camera angles, no fussy acting and an oldfashioned concentration on the tale in hand. One might add, in these days when so many films go on too long, that he also knows where to stop.

This is not one of Oliveira's most memorable works but it still provides a lesson in unobtrusive but pointed filmmaking.

The man is a quiet genius whom we always think is finally going to retire but thankfully never does.

The story is taken from Portuguese writer Eca de Queiroz and starts on a train to the Algarve where a young man (Ricardo Trepa) mournfully tells the sympathetic stranger in the seat next to him about his abortive romance. As an accountant at his uncle's shop in Lisbon, he sees a pretty blonde (Catarina Wallenstein) fluttering a fan in the window opposite. Soon he determines to marry her.

His uncle, however, is furious and forbids the match, instantly dismissing him. But a friend sends him on a job in Cape Verde where he manages to make enough money for the girl's mother to accept the engagement. Before he can take things much further, however, he loses all his money to the friend who sent him to Cape Verde. …

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