“Oedipus Rex” goes to the Brazilian outback in “Oxen’s Eye,” a talky two-hander for actors Genezio de Barros and Gustavo Machado (with brief contributions by Angelina Muniz and Caca Amaral) that’s best suited for the friendlier confines of the small screen. This is despite cinematographer Uli Burtin’s work with dramatic key lighting for interior night scenes and vivid exterior work that is a model of artful resourcefulness and craft, the subtlety and scope of which is sure to get lost on tube viewings. Director Hermano Penna makes a vain effort to open up the Oedipal drama, but it fundamentally remains a stage play, worthy of specialty fests.
Great opening shot is literally the title, setting up an ominous mood carried out when servile and seemingly slow-witted Cirineu (Machado) tells boss Modesto (Barros) that Modesto’s wife Evangelina (Muniz) has slept with his brother Justo (Amaral). It takes a good deal of patience for Modesto to fathom all that Cirineu is telling him — and “Oedipus” fans know that there’s more, much more — but Penna never makes the tension truly cinematic.