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The best film of 1998. The return of a filmmaker very intelligent and sensible, who has not yet been considered a "mester". Maria Luiza Mendonça act is very intense, an actress who always plays very uncommon roles gives us a gift in her debout in the Cinema speaking in a language that is not her birth one. It's an obligatory movie.
I just watched this movie as part of Expression of Brazil program at Toronto Harbourfront Centre this weekend. Contrary to other reviews, I did not find any chemistry between the young couple. The movie did not convince or explore enough that they are in "crazy" or absolute love that could last 20 years. Poor dialogues and sometimes very bad editing contributed to worsen this movie. Actually there too many parallel stories that could easily turn into at least 5 different movies: the relationship between the main character and his father, the romance with Ana, his career as movie director, the brief relationship with Lilith and his return 20 years late. I've been told this movie is in part Babenco biography and when it was booed at Cannes festival, he commented ".. I felt as they are booing my own life..."...Nope, not with your life but the the way you told us.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A motley group meets regularly at a cafe where the conversation veers
toward esoteric things, among them, the idea a photographer, Jacobo,
can capture a person's soul with his camera. Ana, an enigmatic young
woman, tries to interest her lover in the experiment where money is
needed to head start the project. Among the regulars to these sessions
is Juan, a young Jewish man whose nightmares are always about being
found out by his classmates. Jacobo tries to take a group picture to
illustrate his point. Only Ana's image comes blurred, as though her
soul is the only one not showing, while the rest appear as they are.
The attraction between Juan and Ana becomes clear. As an experienced youth, Juan does everything wrong during his sexual encounters with Ana. This young woman has deeply rooted problems. She even hints to Juan about being given shock treatment to erase her memory. Ana becomes unruly as her descent into a mild form of madness is clear. Juan, who has problems at home with his salesman father, decides to run away with Ana. Theirs is a hopeless situation. Ana decides on a double suicide which both survive.
An older Juan is seen on a plane coming home. During the flight, he awakens from a nightmare. Was it all in Juan's dream? Was the beginning of the story we have watched so far actually a bad dream in his head that comes crashing back in his mind? A part of his life has finally caught up with him. His father, gravely ill, is dying. Juan, although concerned about his father's health, has another thing in mind: finding Ana. He goes back to the old meeting places, but most of his friends are no longer around. One of the old group offers an address where he can find Ana.
One night, while walking, Juan sees a mysterious woman. There is something about her that catches his attention. Following her into a building, she runs ahead of him, but she waits for Juan on a landing. They have a painful sexual encounter. Later, Juan discovers Ana at the beach. When he tries to kiss her, a photographer appears, scaring them, and they flee. Juan discovers the woman in a night club. In his mind, it is Ana, but he is not completely sure.
After his father dies, Juan decides he must go back to Los Angeles and his life there. Before he makes his flight to his new home, there is something he must do. A final encounter proves to be a fatal one. We next find Juan on board the flight. Waking up, he opens a picture that holds the key to the mystery he has just gone through.
According to the credits, this is a story that was told to director Hector Babenco by his father. In fact, the film seems to be a tribute to his old man. Whether a true story, or just a work of fiction, "Foolish Heart" holds our attention because of the intensity Mr. Babenco gave this story that spans more than two decades. A painful love story that was never consummated as it was meant to be. Mr. Babenco's narrative really begins with Juan's nightmare during his flight to Argentina. What we saw before is actually his dream where he is recollecting his youth, his lost love and his near death that took away Ana from him. A clever premise from Mr. Babenco. There are things in the film that are disorienting. The setting of this tale takes place in Mar del Plata, a city on the Atlantic, but we are shown a scene shot in Buenos Aires' metro, as well as some other inconsistencies, which do not rob the film of authenticity, probably an oversight of the art director when combining the 1960s with the 1990s when the film was shot.
There are amazing performances from Walter Quiroz and Miguel Angel Sola, who play Juan as a young man, and the adult. The excellent Maria Luisa Mendonca shines as Ana during two stages of her life. Even though Ms. Mendonca was asked to portrait the younger woman, her transformation into the older Ana is quite extraordinary. Villanueva Cosse, a great character actor appears as Juan's father. Norma Aleandro shows only on a couple of scenes.
The cinematography of Lauro Escorel catches the essence of both epochs depicted in the film. Zbigniew Preisner's music adds texture to the finished product. The film is worth a view by fans of Mr. Babenco whose vision was inspiring in having this project done.
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