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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Great and Complex Romance About Love, Ignorance, Corruption and Intolerance

9/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6 March 2004

In 1928, in a revolutionary Mexico, in the small village of Progreso nearby the harbor in the district of Yucatan, Eliseo (Daniel Acuña) is the son of a violent stevedore, who is one of the founders of the local Union. The boy has a sister, mother and two friends, and is not a good student. He frequently lies, specially to avoid the physical aggressions of his father. His teacher Felipa (Blanca Guerra) decides to help him to assume responsibilities and asks him to clean her house daily before going to school. Felipa is in love with a sailor. One day, Eliseo arrives wounded due to the beating of his father and stays at her house in the night. The solitude approaches them and the boy has an intercourse with her, becoming the favorite student of Felipa. Their affair ends when her beloved sailor is found drowned and Felipa moves from Progreso. The main story continues in 1937, when Eliseo is a married young man, and Felipa returns to Progreso. This film is excellent, having a screenplay with many characters, all of them very well defined for the viewer, and many plots and sub-plots. This romance is about love, ignorance, corruption and intolerance. The direction is superb and the actors and actresses have a magnificent performance in this very credible story. Although having a minor role, it was good to see Elpidia Carrilo, from `Salvador', `Predator' and `Predator 2' on the screen. The problem in Brazil is the title and subtitles on the cover of this movie, which induces the viewer that this is a thriller or an horror film. I have the VHS, and the title is: `The Spell'; the subtitles are: `Magic, Seduction, Superstition, Witchcraft'. A viewer who does not know anything about the story, hires or buys the film expecting a suspenseful film. Indeed he will find a very sad romance. The target audience is not achieved using this type of subterfuge. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): `O Feitiço' (`The Spell')

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A woman of mystery is always interesting.

7/10
Author: raymond-15 from Australia
18 December 2001

Mexico in 1937 around the port area of Progreso in the district of Yucatan. No grand houses here, just dockers'houses fronting on to cobble-stoned streets. Not much privacy either, if one can judge the way people come and go through the unlocked doors. There's plenty of atmosphere and real life characters. Some of them decidedly odd. I did get a bit confused with some of the women characters. With their dark hair and unsmiling faces they all looked much the same to me at first, but eventually I sorted out the characters.

The main character is a little boy called Eliseo who is not doing too well with his school studies despite threats from his somewhat cruel father who seems to be the union leader down on the wharves. They are a pretty rough lot down there.

One rainy night Eliseo calls at the home of his school mistress seeking shelter from a torrential downpour. She lets him in of course, and you've guessed it, she dries him off with a towel. But there's more... she invites him to share her double bed for the night. (I have a feeling the censor has been at work here). Now is that typical Mexican hospitality, mere kindness on her part or is there some ulterior motive? For one thing Eliseo starts to get A's in all his school work. There is a good scene where Eliseo sits at his injured father's bedside. "How do you explain your sudden improvement?" A pause, then..."She is a very good teacher!" The townsfolk believe the teacher is a witch. Gossip travels fast in Progreso. The sudden deaths of the headmaster and the school teacher's fisherman friend, together with the deaths of Eliseo's school pals are all linked to the school teacher. Is it just an unfortunate coincidence or does she possess some secret power over people and events? This is the question posed by the film. The locals are sure in their own minds she is a witch. Despite everything, Eliseo is drawn to her and continues into his adult married life. I must say Iwas drawn to her too. She commands attention in all her scenes. Her calm manner, quiet voice, stately appearance and eyes that revealed some hidden secrets accentuate the pervading air of mystery. Every room has its secrets" she says "and those secrets must remain within that room."

Summing up. the story of an affair between young student and teacher is not new, but here the setting is different, the characters are interesting and most viewers enjoy a dash of mystery to any tale.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful...

10/10
Author: Andres Gonzalez (gosmar01@hotmail.com) from Norwalk, CT
30 August 1999

I saw this movie at the Lincoln Center in New York 2 days ago in one of those weird film festivals and I say weird because sometimes people remember only bad things of Latin America and forget the wonderful ones about us. This is one good-looking movie. The photography is breathtaking and the actors performances are wonderful. Especially good is the actress that interprets the role of Felipa, the teacher who falls for a sailor but finds solace in the arms of a 13 years old. Although the story slows a lot when the characters grow older, the story is flawless, full of passion and magic. Don't miss it!

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

the way of life on yucatan by mid 20 century

7/10
Author: gabo haro (makurawe) from hermosillo, sonora
18 October 1999

a good story, about a kid who is enchanted by a little girl to have his love for her. The director really shows up, the way of life on Yucatan Mexico, by the middle of the 20 century, with a language and costumes of that part of mexico. I really enjoy that movie

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Stylized tragedy

8/10
Author: Edgar Soberon Torchia (estorchia@gmail.com) from Panama
30 January 2004

This is a most strange sensual Mexican story, where the main aspect seems to be its art direction. This does not mean that the story of a man whose little war against political corruption, ethnic traditions and sexual urges, has been stylized to the point of becoming an obstruction to its appreciation. On the contrary, because it is a story dealing with surfaces and sensuality, the external look is such a deliberate aspect that the art direction is perhaps the key element to tell the story, thanks to the way décors, color and props transmit the feeling of privation, exploitation and misery in rural Mexico. Very good performance by Blanca Guerra, as usual.

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Real, sad and beautiful

10/10
Author: Samir (skketch@yahoo.com) from Mexico
21 February 1999

Words and lines, pieces of lives and a marvelous collection of moments... this movie like very few I have seen, is actually able to touch you. It feels like a nice long history, like a moving book, which fills the screen and shows the born of an era, the mixture of what once was, what was then and what one day will be... in a way that is perfectly universal and painfully true; a little town in the south of Mexico, a little story, a few lies, a few truths. A great movie!

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

How to throw a good story and good acting to the rubbish bin.

3/10
Author: franbelgar from Singapore
27 May 2003

Technically a very viewable film "Under a Spell" is the case of what a terrible screenplay can do to an excellent story, notable actors and lovely setting. As an adaptation it reminded me of those online translation services that literally show you the meaning of every word you give them...although the translation doesn't make much sense.

I would suggest Carlos Carrera to stick to direction and leave script writing to professionals.

The longest 130 minutes of my life.

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