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On the Far Side of the Tunnel

In "On the Far Side of the Tunnel," the late Fernando Rey gives a crusty, convincing perf as a charmingly grumpy screenwriter who ends up sequestered in a monastery with his younger writing partner to finish an overdue script for an uninspired European co-prod. Pic's first half is light and amusing, but it subsequently veers toward darker territory. Fests and tube sales should shed a little light on this tunnel.

In “On the Far Side of the Tunnel,” the late Fernando Rey gives a crusty, convincing perf as a charmingly grumpy screenwriter who ends up sequestered in a monastery with his younger writing partner to finish an overdue script for an uninspired European co-prod. Pic’s first half is light and amusing, but it subsequently veers toward darker territory. Fests and tube sales should shed a little light on this tunnel.

The lure of showbiz, even in the most remote outposts, is gently lampooned as the five monks at the off-season retreat stick their ecclesiastical noses into the penning of what is meant to be a Sean Connery vehicle set in 19th-century Scotland. With the help of an alluring and over-imaginative young female baker, supporting players drop plentiful hints that the story would play far better as a contemporary Spanish-language love story, set in some of the lovely local locations.

Script-in-progress concerns an elderly musician, his young protege and a young woman with a death wish. Unsolicited input from the baker pulls the lackluster melodrama into the present, where the three protagonists play out a potentially risky variation on the period triangle.

Wry comic timing and a conspiratorial tone sustain the pic until it wobbles toward its dramatic conclusion. Some viewers will regret the shift in tone, while others will appreciate the literary sense of closure. Location lensing in Spain’s picturesque Huesca region is easy on the eye. Playing is sweet and assured.

On the Far Side of the Tunnel

(SPANISH)

Production: A Serva Films production. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Directed by Jaime de Arminan. Screenplay, de Arminan, Eduardo Arminan.

Crew: Camera (color), Teo Escamilla; editor, Jose Luis Matesanz; art direction, Julio Esteban; sound (Dolby), Miguel Polo. Reviewed at Montpellier Festival of Mediterranean Cinema, France, Oct. 24, 1994. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Fernando Rey, Maribel Verdu, Gonzalo Vega, Amparo Baro, Rafael Alonso, Luis Barbero, Gabriel Latorre, Pedro Alvarez-Ossorio, Jorge Calvo, Asuncion Sanchez.

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