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  •  REVIEW: EL CHEVROLé

    El Chevrolé

    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
    Offoffoff.com

    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.

      
    EL CHEVROLé
    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.
    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.

    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.

    El Chevrolé  
    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?

      El Chevrolé
    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
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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