Fancying itself "a subtropical riposte to 'Catch 22' and 'Dr. Strangelove,' " "Captain Pantoja and the Special Service" plays more like "Fitzcarraldo" conducting "Risky Business" at the "MASH." Though mischievous and irreverent, satire about a straight-arrow army officer in charge of an Amazon River prostie patrol struggles mightily under the twin weights of repetitive situations and formidable length. Glossy item from director Francisco J. Lombardi ("The City and the Dogs"), working again from an underdog-against-unfeeling-system novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, will continue to draw fest interest, but theatrical prospects appear more daunting, with specialty vid business a better bet.

Fancying itself “a subtropical riposte to ‘Catch 22′ and ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ ” “Captain Pantoja and the Special Service” plays more like “Fitzcarraldo” conducting “Risky Business” at the “MASH.” Though mischievous and irreverent, satire about a straight-arrow army officer in charge of an Amazon River prostie patrol struggles mightily under the twin weights of repetitive situations and formidable length. Glossy item from director Francisco J. Lombardi (“The City and the Dogs”), working again from an underdog-against-unfeeling-system novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, will continue to draw fest interest, but theatrical prospects appear more daunting, with specialty vid business a better bet.

Selected on the strength of his saintliness by military brass to organize a touring unit of distaff “visitors” with the aim of preventing lonely soldiers from pawing the locals, Capt. Pantaleon Pantoja (Salvador Del Solar) at first treats the operation with the no-nonsense efficiency for which he is known. Soon , however, the smashing success of the mission is overshadowed by his growing obsession with one of the women, Olga, nicknamed “La Columbiana” (Angie Cepeda), as well as the growing scandal over the tarty task force.

Story scores obvious points about the absurdity of the military administration early in the proceedings and segues into the steamy, illicit affair with gusto. Yet while assembled party girls are easy on the eyes and Cepeda in particular is breathtaking in numerous sex scenes with hunky Del Solar , significant pruning would improve pace and focus.

Tech credits are impressive, with Teodoro Delgado’s amber lensing evoking the tropics with vivid immediacy. Pic was official Peruvian submission for Oscar consideration.

Captain Pantoja and the Special Service

(PERU)

Production

An America production, in association with Inca Films and Tornasol Film, in collaboration with Via Digital. (International sales: Cinevista, Miami Beach, Fla.) Produced by Jose Enrique Crousillat, Gerardo Herrero. Executive producer, Gustavo Sanchez. Directed by Francisco J. Lombardi. Screenplay, Giovanna Pollarolo, Enrique Moncloa, based on the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa. Camera (color), Teodoro Delgado; editor, Danielle Fillios; music, Bingen Mendizabal; art directors, Alejandro Rossi, Alfredo Rojas; costume designer, Jose Miguel Valdivia; sound, Santiago Vergara, Mauricio Molina, Ernesto Trujillo; assistant directors, Ricardo Velasquez, Felipe Degregori. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama) , Feb. 16, 2000. (Also in Miami Film Festival.) Running time: 137 MIN.

With

Pantaleon Pantoja ..... Salvador Del Solar La Columbiana ..... Angie Cepeda Pochita ..... Monica Sanchez Chuchupe ..... Pilar Bardem General Collazos ..... Gianfranco Brero Colonel Lopez ..... Gustavo Bueno Capellan Beltran ..... Carlos Kaniowsky
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