He's a magic man
On the day a charismatic Uruguayan Frank Zappa is sprung mysteriously from prison, small miracles start happening in the intoxicating "The Life Jacket Is Under Your Seat" / "El Chevrole."
By JOSHUA TANZER
The blood of a saint becomes the source of a stream in an empty
lot in the middle of an urban Uruguay neighborhood, and the locals build a
shrine where they can drench themselves in holy water.
But a mobbed-up
developer is going to seize the property and build a luxury hotel if the
neighbors can't come up with a $10,000 payment in 24 hours.
|Original title: The Life Jacket Is Under the Seat.|
Directed by: Leonardo Ricagni.
Written by: Pato Lopez, Nestor Pinion and Leonardo Ricagni.
Cast: Pastora Vega, Horacio Buscaglia, Jorge Esmoris, Hugo Fatturuso, Leo Masliah, Ruben Rada, Tabare Rivero.
In English and Spanish with English subtitles.
Into this simple moral equation is dropped an X-factor: Tuleque
(Jorge Esmoris), a magical Uruguayan Frank Zappa who seems to be followed by small miracles wherever he goes. On the day Tuleque is
mysteriously sprung from prison into a cubist blue sky, a local barfly reads the paper and notes that
after months of nothing, things are suddenly happening in town.
Things are about to happen indeed, as just then Tuleque arrives on the
scene. He pulls his prized two-thirds of a two-tone Chevy Bel-Air (there's no
engine compartment but it's immaculate from the windshield to the fins)
to the holy spot and declares to the worshipers that he will reunite his former band, the
"Chevrole's," win a War of the Bands and use the money to save the shrine. (Don't think
Mickey Rooney putting on a show here, think Che Guevara rallying the troops.)|
Into this plan is dropped another X-factor: Angela (Pastora Vega),
a hooker with her heart set on some gold. The gorgeous Angela was the
reason Tuleque was arrested in the first place, and although their passion
is renewed, she's also caught up in a plot involving the mobsters and a
suitcase full of dollars. Even if she pulls off this dangerous deal, will
she abandon Tuleque or even lead him to his doom?
Elements of "The Life Jacket Is Under Your Seat" bring to mind a number of other fine films. The
search for Tuleque's mercurial bandmates is like a charmed version of
"Buena Vista Social Club." Esmoris' manic patter is reminiscent of David
Thewlis in "Naked." The magical mood is familiar from the tradition of Latin
American literature and movies such as "Like Water for Chocolate," and the
female (and "female") characters in crisis resemble Pedro Almodovar's heroines. And
the style of the film chopped up and reassembled, especially in the early scenes
is like the music-video quality of "Run Lola Run."|
Put together, it's fresh,
quirky, fun and moving, visually exciting and emotionally involving. Vega is
enchanting, the band is a bunch of characters, and the charismatic Esmoris is a
whirlwind you can't stop watching.
|OCTOBER 20, 1999|
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