Review: ‘Moonfish’

As determinedly private as the Lampris regius for which it's named, "Moonfish" is a tough-to-swallow and undernourishing course that fatally mistakes melodrama for insight. Distribs won't exactly school around this cold fish, although some fests may nibble.

As determinedly private as the Lampris regius for which it’s named, “Moonfish” is a tough-to-swallow and undernourishing course that fatally mistakes melodrama for insight. Distribs won’t exactly school around this cold fish, although some fests may nibble.

A fortnight before her summer 1999 nuptials, spoiled and headstrong party girl Maria Joao (Beatriz Batarda), hung over and thinking she might be pregnant, decides marriage isn’t for her. Over objections of politically ambitious dad (Luis Miguel Cintra) and with the encouragement of black sheep Uncle Nini (vet Francisco Rabal), Joao blows the family estate vowing to return a large boat and trailer to her fiancee in Spain. She enlists dad’s godson Gabriel (Marcello Urgeghe) to drive the rig across the southern Iberian plains, with a visit to estranged sibling Ze Maria (Ricardo Aibeo) in Cordoba sparking class and sexual shenanigans. Wooden playing is masked but not helped by complicated structure, called “quasi-traditional” by helmer Jose Alvaro Morais but in fact just tedious. Tech credits are glossy. Title comes from gay lovers’ quarrel/wordgame in Federico Garcia Lorca’s subversive, controversial 1930 play “El Publico,” performed sporadically and to no great effect here.

Moonfish

Portugal-France-Spain

Production

A Paulo Branco presentation of a Madragoa Filmes/Gemini Films production. (International sales: Gemini Films, Paris/Madragoa Filmes, Alcochete, Portugal.) Produced by Paulo Branco.

Crew

Directed by Jose Alvaro Morais. Screenplay by Morais, Jeanne Waltz. Camera (color), Edgar Moura; editor, Jackie Bastide; music, Ricardo Del Fra; production designer, Joao Calvario; sound (Dolby Digital), Philippe Morel. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (competing), Aug. 29, 2000. Original title: Peixe lua. Running time: 124 MIN.

With

With: Beatriz Batarda, Marcello Urgeghe, Ricardo Aibeo, Luis Miguel Cintra, Isabel Ruth, Assuncion Balaguer, Paula Guedes, Francisco Rabal.
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