A self-consciously quirky docu whose surface irony conceals seriousness of purpose, Mariano Donoso’s “Opus” effectively rolls several shorts into a chaotic and often flawed whole. This dangerous strategy holds together only by virtue of the winsome self-deprecation of its director, and pic’s perceptive treatment of contempo Argentinean social ills as experienced by kids. Though studded with moments of wit, one sequence late on suggests the helmer would do well to shed some of his sometimes harsh irony and let his compassion break through.
Donoso gets his crew together to tell them he wants to make a movie set in an Argentinean school. But on arrival in the town, they discover a general teachers’ strike. Featuring several memorable moments of magical realism, docu frequently digresses, finding space for an aging sculptor — a fabulous character with a fading memory who is treated somewhat cruelly — and for one particularly beautiful section, not unlike a Latino “To Be and to Have,” shot in a school in a remote desert pueblo. The most serious flaw is a pointless, entirely non-hilarious voiceover by a stereotyped American producer who can’t believe he’s funding such a non-commercial project.