The UCLA Film Archive's "Contemporary Latin American Films" offers several knockout movies this weekend.
Opening the series, which runs through March 2, is "Moebius," a bravura scientific thriller set in Buenos Aires' subway and made by advanced students of the Fundacion Universidad del Cine. It screens tonight at 8 at James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall.
When a subway train containing about 30 passengers disappears without a trace, we naturally suspect a hijacking or a supernatural twist is in the offing. But instead the filmmakers pull off a brilliant intellectual tour de force that also happens to move like lightning. A mathematician-topographer (Guillermo Angelelli)has his work cut out for him and then some trying to solve the mystery while attempting to persuade the subway's beleaguered director-general (Roberto Carnaghi) that something way out of the ordinary has occurred.
Saturday's offering, Jorge Ali Triana's "Oedipus Mayor," in which Gabriel Garcia Marquez, no less, has transposed "Oedipus Rex" to the Andes in Colombia, alas plays like a telenovela. But Sunday brings two pictures as challenging and rewarding as "Moebius."
In the beguiling "Buenos Aires viceversa" (Sunday at 2 p.m.), writer-director Alejandro Agresti moves from one vignette to another, creating a mosaic of everyday life in vibrant, beautiful Buenos Aires and drawing us in gradually into the lives of a large cross-section of people. As the film progresses, we discover how the dark days of the military dictatorship continue to cast a shadow on Argentines--that painful losses and lingering hatreds lie just below a bustling surface of typical urban existence.
The key figure is a lovely 18-year-old (Vera Fogwill), whose parents were among the desparecidos. She is an aspiring videographer who lands a curious assignment to record the outside world for an elderly aristocratic couple who have not left their elegant, antique-filled home for a decade. "Buenos Aires" benefits from a score that reflects the film's ever-changing moods and milieus.
Even more ambitious is Rosemberg Cariry's amazing "Corisco and Dada" (Sunday at 7 p.m.), a stunningly folkloric, deliberately myth-making telling of an outlaw couple as legendary in Brazil as Bonnie and Clyde. Corisco (Chico Diaz) was a virile, highly politicized bandit who roamed the drought-ridden backwoods of Bahia, stealing from rich landowners and eluding government police for years. In 1927, Corisco kidnapped Dada, the 12-year-old daughter of a man of modest means, believing the man betrayed him and his men. Although Corisco rapes the girl, a fierce love blossoms between them, and the film concludes as a bitter epic romantic tragedy steeped in the culture of its time and place.
Cariry began preparing his film in 1989 when he met the actual Dada, who has since died. The film's distinctive, crucial score celebrates the traditional music of Northeastern Brazil.
Two more films follow in the series: the premiere of Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabia's comedy "Guantanamera" on Feb. 20 and Murio Salles' "How Angels Are Born," a drama of the chasm between Rio's rich and poor, concluding the series March 2.
Information: (310) 206-FILM.
Five years ago, William E. Jones released his experimental, highly demanding feature-length "Massillon," in which he juxtaposed his bleak account of growing up gay in a small Ohio city with lyrical images of that community. The personal gradually gave way to the political as Jones delved into how homophobia and the ignorance that goes with it are embedded in our very language.
Now he's taken a similar approach with his equally impressive and thoughtful "Finished" (screening Sunday at 7 p.m. at LACE, 6522 Hollywood Blvd., as part of a Filmforum series), in which he probes the life and death of Alan Lambert, a handsome French Canadian porn star with whom Jones became infatuated but whom he never met.
As Southern California, and later Montreal, vistas unfold, Jones tells how he discovered Lambert committed suicide as part of his half-baked messianic Marxism--and because he thought that, having reached the height of physical perfection, he could only decline. Jones draws provocative parallels with Frank Capra's "Meet John Doe," but Lambert also recalls Yukio Mishima in his self-destructive mix of mystical radicalism and concern for physical perfection.
Information: (213) 466-4143.
Note: The Sunset 5 will screen Saturdays and Sundays at midnight "Raising Heroes," a disappointingly amateurish effort on the important issue of the right of gay couples to adopt children.
Information: (213) 848-3500.