LONDON--Carlos Saura's "The South" is top-flight cinematic short-story telling. Hourlong TV movie, about a Buenos Aires librarian's obsession with his family home in the south, should rate festival exposure on the strength of the Spanish director's name and makes a perfect dualer with his subsequent "Sevillanas" dance docu for imaginative art-house playoff.

LONDON–Carlos Saura’s “The South” is top-flight cinematic short-story telling. Hourlong TV movie, about a Buenos Aires librarian’s obsession with his family home in the south, should rate festival exposure on the strength of the Spanish director’s name and makes a perfect dualer with his subsequent “Sevillanas” dance docu for imaginative art-house playoff.

Saura has updated the two-page short story by Argentine scribe Jose Luis Borges from the ’30s to spring 1990, and played up its autobiographical elements , such as the protagonist’s strong mother.

Helmer sees “El Sur” as “a bit of an experimental film,” though its precision mounting and dream-like ending echo elements in his work from the past 20 years.

Central character is shy, time-serving librarian Juan Dahlman (Oscar Martinez), who dreams he’s stabbed to death at the family’s beautiful southern ranch, a place he’s wanted to revisit since childhood.

One day, after injuring his head in a fall, he undergoes surgery and is ordered to rest. And so he finally journeys south, to his appointment with destiny.

Pic is basically a slow-paced mood piece–a study of a man emotionally (and later, physically) between life and death–but Saura keeps plenty of emotion bubbling away beneath the surface to prevent the pic from becoming a dry, academic exercise. The quirky classical/Hispanic soundtrack and Jose Luis Alcaine’s crystalline visuals keep ears and eyes engaged.

Performances are all neatly etched and highly focused. Buenos Aires locations are used with economy.

El Sur

(THE SOUTH) (Spanish--Color)

Production

An Iberoamericana Films/Quinto Centenario production, for Television Espanola. (U.S. sales: Television Espanola, Madrid; elsewhere: Quinto Centenario , Madrid.) Executive producer, Andres Vicente Gomez. Directed, written by Carlos Saura, from Jorge Luis Borges' short story "El Sur."

Crew

Camera (color), Jose Luis Alcaine; editor, Pablo G. del Amo; music, Ariel Ramirez, Hamlet Lima Quintana; production design, Victor Albarran, Alejandro Arando; art direction, Emilio Basaldua; costume design, Beatriz Di Benedetto; sound, Alfonso Pino, Jose Luis Diaz. Reviewed at London Film Festival, Nov. 15, 1992. Running time: 60 min.

With

Juan Dahlman ... Oscar Martinez Carlos Mancho/ Maton ... Gerardo Romano Dona Rosario Flores ... Nini Gambler Alejandro ... Villanueve Cosse Pastor Guillermo Brige ... Jorge Narrale Casiano ... Arturo Bonin Doctor/Patron ... Luis Tasca Sergio ... Juan Legrado
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