After her well-received "Angel of Fire," Mexican director Dana Rotberg returns with "Otilia," an erotic melodrama based on a novel by Sergio Galindo. Period piece about a woman with a spectacularly beautiful body marred by a badly disfigured face. The director takes it all very seriously but, worse, her handling of the material is flat and uninspiring.

Eight years after her well-received “Angel of Fire,” Mexican director Dana Rotberg returns with “Otilia,” an erotic melodrama based on a novel by Sergio Galindo. Period piece about a woman with a spectacularly beautiful body marred by a badly disfigured face, pic is a disappointment given the possibilities. The director takes it all very seriously but, worse, her handling of the material is flat and uninspiring. Outside its home base, distribution possibilities are unsexy.

Little is made of pic’s setting, a small town soon after the turn of the last century. Otilia Rauda (Gabriela Canudas) is a spectacular beauty, except for the fact that almost half her face is disfigured by a dark mole. To add to her woes, her father, a prominent citizen in the town, is a stern disciplinarian and control freak, her mother a doormat.

Her father insists she marry the town’s police chief, who infects his bride with venereal disease on their wedding night, making her barren. She retaliates by barring him from her bed, and seeks her sexual pleasures with other men.

Eventually she finds true love when a wanted bandit, Ruben, arrives, badly wounded, at her house. She hides him, nurses him back to health, and becomes his lover, despite the fact that her husband is leading the search for the fugitive.

There was plenty of scope here for a vibrant saga in the “Duel in the Sun” tradition, and Gabriela Canudas, frequently seen unclad, certainly fits the role of the woman scorned who asserts herself with a vengeance. But the direction is routine and flaccid, and the film fails to engage on the most basic level.

For the record, the Toronto festival listed the running time as 150 minutes, but–fortunately–it was 40 minutes shorter.

Otilla

(Mexico)

Production

An Alfredo Ripstein presentation of an Alameda Films, Fund for Cinema Production of Calidad, Mexican Institute of Cinematography, Altavista Films, Resonancia Prods., Wanda Films, Blu Films production, with Goberno del Estado de Veracruz, U of Veracruz, Fund to Promote Calidad Cinematography. (International sales: F for Film, Fontaine sous Jouy, France.) Produced by Alfredo Ripstein. Executive producer, Daniel Birman Ripstein. Directed, written by Dana Rotberg, based on a novel by Sergio Galindo.

Crew

Camera (color), Guillermo Ganillo; editor, Carlos Puente, Sifrido Barjau; music, Mariachi Charanda; production designer, Salvador Parra; costume designer, Monica Newmaier; sound (Dolby digital), Santiago Nunez, Carlos Aguilar; associate producer, Francisco Gonzalez Compean; assistant director, Miguel Lima; casting, Maria Antonia Yanes. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (World Cinema), Sept. 8, 2001. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Gabriela Canudas, Alvaro Guerrero, Alberto Estrella, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Julieta Egurrola, Artura Rios, Carlos Torrestorija.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more