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A Walk in the Clouds

Trying to transfer the Latino magic of his arthouse smash Like Water for Chocolate to a US setting, Mexican helmer Alfonso Arau has turned out a glossy, fairy-tale romance that's longer on wishfulness than believability.

Trying to transfer the Latino magic of his arthouse smash Like Water for Chocolate to a US setting, Mexican helmer Alfonso Arau has turned out a glossy, fairy-tale romance that’s longer on wishfulness than believability.

Pic’s source Alessandro Blasetti’s Quattro passi fra le nuvole (Four Steps in the Clouds), a 1942 Italian film regarded as a forerunner of Neorealism, is a modest but sharply mounted comedy/melodrama about an unhappily wed chocolate salesman who briefly poses as a young woman’s husband to help her escape the ire of her rural family, then returns to his domestic misery. Arau’s Americanized, happy-ending version opens at the end of World War II.

Plagued by memories of combat horrors, returning vet Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) is on a business trip when a series of train and bus mishaps leaves him stranded roadside with a beautiful fellow traveler, Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon). She’s pregnant by a departed lover and Paul gallantly agrees to appear as her husband.

Surprised by the couple’s unheralded marriage, Alberto Aragon (Giancarlo Giannini) at first spurns his supposed son-in-law. Paul, though, is welcomed by the rest of the clan, especially gregarious patriarch Don Pedro (Anthony Quinn).

Arau stages all this with a determined gusto that at least has the virtue of consistency, and involves winning perfs from Giannini, Quinn and Spanish actress Sanchez-Gijon. It’s hardly her fault that the drama founders on a lack of electricity between the two lovers, because Reeves offers more in the way of looks and presence than thesping savvy.

A Walk in the Clouds

  • Production: Zucker/20th Century-Fox. Director Alfonso Arau; Producer Gil Netter, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker; Screenplay Robert Mark Kamen, Mark Miller, Harvey Weitzman.
  • Crew: Camera, Emmanuel Lubezki; Editor, Don Zimmerman; Music, Maurice Jarre; Art Director, David Gropman Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 103 MIN.
  • With: Keanu Reeves Aitana Sanchez-Gijon Anthony Quinn Giancarlo Giannini Angelica Aragon Evangelina Elizondo