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Montevideo, Uruguay. In this comedic drama, Elisa, 27, dreams of opening her own hairdressing salon in one of the rich districts of the Uruguayan capital. A bit of a rebel, one day Elisa moves out of her mother's house with her two children and breaks up with Garcia, her boss and lover who has infuriated her by not wanting to get married. So, in the space of twenty-four hours, Elisa finds herself without a roof over her head, without a man, without a job and without money. Her best friend Loulou finds her a job - in the brothel run by Dona Jacqueline. And without really being aware of it, Elisa slides into prostitution, which leads her to Barcelona. She falls in love, she is exploited, she gets involved in transvestite gang wars, and meanwhile just dreams of earning enough money for her little beauty salon back home. Written by
Excellent Film About A Little Known Crime Syndicate
EN LA PUTA VIDA is a very well made, polished, intelligent film from Uruguay that begins as what seems to be a comedy and develops into a provocative drama - much the way events in life mimic such changes. Director and co-writer Beatriz Flores Silva knows her way around tough subject matter and is able to bring out sterling performances by a very fine cast.
Elisa (the very beautiful and talented Marianna Santangelo) is a hairdresser with two children, born of different fathers, who lives with her mother while trying to convince her latest paramour Garcia (Augusto Mazzarelli) to leave his wife and marry her. She dreams of having her own Salon in the rich district of Montevideo and will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. When her life falls apart and she is desperate to make enough money to open her Salon, she is invited into the world of fast money (prostitution) by her best friend Lulu (Andrea Fantoni), and enters the tutelage of Madame Dona Jacqueline (a terrific cameo by Graciela Esuder!). In her new role Elisa encounters the handsome but wily Placido (played by Silvestre) who invites her to bed and to Barcelona, Spain with promises that she will make so much money that she not only will be able to send money back to her children, but also have more than enough to open her Salon in the fanciest part of her native Montevideo. Elisa and Lulu join other prostitutes in this promise of wealth and fly to Barcelona - and unexpected white slavery. There she works her corner but is in the presence of a gang of Brazilian transvestites controlled by a mob. She is arrested by a policeman- with-heart Marcelo (the very handsome and gifted actor Jose 'aka Josep' Linuesa) and when her 'man' Placido reveals himself for what he is (a greedy, heartless pimp), Elisa works with Marcelo to uncover the mob violence of the streets to gain a return to her beloved Montevideo. How the story ends is left to the pleasure of the viewer.
Apparently this story is based on some degree of fact: in the 1980s to the present many Latin American women have been promised wealth in joining the prostitution business in Spain only to become victims of white slavery. Director Silva is able to make this rather terrifying reality into a story that, though sensual, is never in bad taste: the story is more important that portraying the sex-for-sale scenes. Mariana Santangelo is a very fine actress and this film is just the right vehicle to put her in the ranks of international stardom. The photography in both Uruguay and Spain is beautiful, the musical score is exceedingly well written and evocative, and the end result is a film that opens the door for Uruguayan films to be taken seriously. Highly recommended.
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