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.