A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, May 30, 2016

Open Your Eyes (Alejandro Amenábar, 1997)

I have pretty much forgotten the American remake, Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001), with Tom Cruise. But I'm afraid I'm going to forget the original rather quickly, too. Sci-fi head-spinners generally work for me only if they feature plausible and interesting people. The protagonist of Open Your Eyes, César (Eduardo Noriega), is certainly handsome but otherwise he's just another rich layabout who doesn't seem to have much compunction about stealing Sofia (Penélope Cruz), the young woman his friend Pelayo (Fele Martinez) brings to César's birthday party. But that awakens the jealousy of his ex-girlfriend, Nuria (Najwa Nimri), who offers César a ride in her car and then drives it off a hillside. The accident leaves César disfigured -- and then the plot switches into a complex cross-cutting between reality and nightmare. The premise is intriguing: We learn eventually that the disfigured César, told that plastic surgery can do nothing to restore his good looks, commits suicide so that he can be cryogenically frozen, in the hope that one day be revived and have his face restored. But he also signs a clause that allows for his memories to be replaced with artificial ones, so that he will forget the trauma of the accident and the disfigurement. The unraveling of this plot, devised by Amenábar and Mateo Gil, involves much confusion of identity, including scenes in which César finds Sofia turning into the murderous Nuria. With the aid of the psychologist Antonio (Chete Lara), who may or may not be real, César manages to discover what may or may not have happened -- the film is just that unwilling to make everything explicit. Cruz, who played the same role in the American remake, is quite effective as the lovely Sofia, a victim of César's obsession and Nuria's cruelty, generating the only real suspense in the film.

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