Highly passionate but without any sex, "Gypsy Soul" is an offbeat Romeo and Juliet story on the subject of interracial love, set in the poorer neighborhoods of Madrid. Though this third feature by helmer Chuz Gutierrez falls uneasily between a docu on gypsy culture and a standard romance, without fully convincing as either, pic's powerful flamenco soundtrack and appealing (largely gypsy) cast could help it find theatrical playoff and tube sales in niche areas friendly to Hispanic culture. Favorable fest exposure would help it on its way.

Highly passionate but without any sex, “Gypsy Soul” is an offbeat Romeo and Juliet story on the subject of interracial love, set in the poorer neighborhoods of Madrid. Though this third feature by helmer Chuz Gutierrez falls uneasily between a docu on gypsy culture and a standard romance, without fully convincing as either, pic’s powerful flamenco soundtrack and appealing (largely gypsy) cast could help it find theatrical playoff and tube sales in niche areas friendly to Hispanic culture. Favorable fest exposure would help it on its way.

Movie opens with an elegant B&W flashback in which Antonio (Pedro Alonso), a payo (non-gypsy), watches his parents dying in a car crash. Forward to ’90s Madrid, and Antonio is a directionless, skirt-chasing, good-looking waiter who dances for tourists in gypsy bars.

As Antonio struggles to find a “gypsy soul,” he becomes infatuated with Lucia — played by sweet-faced Amara Carmona, the only gypsy actress to audition who was prepared to kiss a payo. Lucia works in the antiques shop of her father, Jose (Rafael Alvarez “El Brujo”), and remainder of the story charts the lovers’ struggle for understanding.

Lucia reps a changing gypsy world: She’s rooted in the male-dominated traditions of her culture but also looking to escape it. Pic uses her character to deliver a moral about the dangers of intolerance.

Fast-paced movie contains some powerful scenes of seduction and resistance, in which Antonio’s raw sex drive comes up against the shy, confused Lucia. But in its keenness to celebrate gypsy culture, picdoesn’t go deeply enough into the individuals who form it, and ironically ends up portraying its older characters, particularly Jose, as brutally narrow-minded.

Too much time is wasted on an awkwardly scripted, melodramatic subplot between Antonio and Dario (Peret), who holds the secret of what really happened to the former’s parents. This strand has nothing much to do with the rest of the picture — apart from establishing Antonio’s credentials as a confused guy — and the dialogue between him and Dario when they meet after 20 years is cliched.

Best moments are in the behind-the-scenes looks at gypsy life, and it’s during the musical interludes when the pic really gets its wheels off the runway. Gutierrez (“Sublet,””Sex Oral”) shoots these energized, celebratory scenes — a wedding and a concert by rock-flamenco band Ketama — with flair and perception.

Performances by Carmona and Alonso, as the central couple, are occasionally overshadowed by those of more experienced actors. Photography, particularly in exteriors, is up to scratch, and sound and music are excellent.

Gypsy Soul

(SPANISH)

Production

An Altafilms release (in Spain) of a Samarkanda Cine & Video production, in association with RTVE and Canal Plus (Spain). (International sales: Samarkanda/RTVE, Madrid.) Produced by Antonio Conesa, Juan Vicente Cordoba. Directed by Chuz Gutierrez. Screenplay, Gutierrez, Joaquin Jorda, Antonio Conesa, Juan Vicente Cordoba, from an original idea by Timo Lozano. Camera (color), Arnaldo Catinari; editor, Fernando Pardo; music, Adolfo Rivero; art direction, Angel Haro; sound (Dolby Digital), Antonio Bloch; choreography, Lozano. Reviewed at Palacio de la Musica, Madrid, Jan. 29, 1996. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Lucia ... Amara Carmona Antonio ... Pedro Alonso Juan Maya/Dario ... Peret Jose ... Rafael Alvarez (El Brujo) Carmencita ... Loles Leon Paula ... Sandra Ballesteros Jesus ... Pepe Luis Carmona Uncle Luis ... Saturnino Garcia Aunt Pilar ... Julieta Serrano
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