Reportedly the all-time Brazilian hit which out-paced Jaws on its home ground, Dona Flor is a simplistic human comedy [from the novel by Jorge Amado] of manners and mores in the colorful Bahia part of Brazil in the 1940s. Pic has a certain raw charm but does not quite achieve the needed cohesion and directorial finesse it calls for.
A lovely mulatto woman, brought up as religious and conventional by her rather hardnosed mother, marries a small-time playboy addicted to bordellos, gambling and carousing. But he awakens the woman, Dona Flor, as proven by some torrid soft love scenes and talk.
One day he dies during a Mardi Gras dance. She marries an exact opposite, a meticulous, unimaginative druggist who makes love twice a week and wants order above all. Her secret yearning for her first husband, despite his faults, has him materializing one night. She fights him off but finally gives in. Nobody but her can see him as he takes his place alongside her in bed.
There is some hothouse local color and fair performances, alongside the expert one by Sonia Braga as the demure but sensual Dona Flor. Direction is uneven but does capture a folksy fable quality.