This is the third year the Consul General of France is putting on a film festival showcasing movies each coproduced by France and a Spanish-speaking nation. This time around the festival features eight films, two of which co-originate from Mexico, one from Argentina, and two from Spain -- all in Spanish. The other three movies are in French.
Familiar and predictable thematic cultural strains pop up. In both Spanish films, politics plays a leading role: El Pianista follows two pianists split by the Spanish Civil War, and Los Anos Barbados is about a group of twentysomethings escaping the "barbaric years" of the Franco regime. The French film Petits Desordres Amoureux is -- you guessed it -- a romantic sex farce, while Don Juan (with Emmanuelle Beart) is a rather dull, grim take on the world's most famous libertine and philanderer.
The Argentine offering, La Nube, takes its cue from German films of the Twenties: Modern trappings are not as progressive as they're cracked up to be. In Buenos Aires, where it has been raining for 1600 days, art in the form of a cabaretlike theater troupe is pitted against modern man and his machines. Out in the gray streets, in the shadow of immense skyscrapers, the traffic and crowds literally move backward.
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The best is a Mexican coproduction, which, not unexpectedly, incorporates bits of magical realism, but rises above cliches and delivers a full-bodied story. In Santitos a young widow is told her daughter is dead, but she's unable to see the body. Distraught and a little angry because she still has to cook, she opens her oven and sees the patron saint of lost causes, who tells her she must search for her daughter. The vision is hardly creepy or heavenly: It's a little altar statue that talks. The widow embarks on a journey, through brothels of Tijuana to wrestling rings in Los Angeles, in search of the girl and a salve for her wounds. And she periodically calls her priest to confess her sins long-distance. The other Mexican offering is Divine, directed by Arturo Ripstein (it replaces another Riptstein film originally scheduled, El Coronel No Tiene Nadie Quien le Escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel).
Petits Desordres Amoureux (France, Spain, Switzerland) 7:30 p.m., July 7
Santitos (France, Mexico) 7:30 p.m., July 8
El Pianista (France, Spain) 9:30 p.m., July 8
La Nube (France, Argentina) 7:00 p.m., July 9
Don Juan (France, Germany, Spain) 5:00 p.m., July 10
Le Serpent a Mange la Grenouille (France, Spain, Luxembourg) 7:15 p.m., July 10
Divine (France, Mexico) 9:15 p.m., July 10
Los Anos Barbados (France, Spain) 6:00 p.m., July 11
The French Hispanic Film Festival runs through July 11 at AMC CocoWalk, 3015 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $9. Call 305-373-1562 for details.