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Secret of the Andes

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  • Noel Vera
    Secret of my undies Noel Vera Secret of the Andes Directed by Alejandro Azzani Come closer, and I ll tell you the secret of my undies. What? You d rather hear
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2001
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      Secret of my undies

      Noel Vera

      Secret of the Andes

      Directed by Alejandro Azzani

      Come closer, and I'll tell you the secret of my undies.

      What? You'd rather hear about the picture "Secret of the Andes?"
      Pfft--okay, I'll talk about "Secret of the Andes."

      You'll be sorry I did, though.

      It's the time of year when no one goes to the movies, because they're
      planning summer trip out of town or to their home province during Holy Week.
      No one has any intention of watching movies during the next two weeks
      (unless it's on cable in their beach resort rooms), and no one is going to
      put up a picture that will play to empty theaters. What distributors have
      been doing during this dry season is dumping--I mean, showing--movies deemed
      uncommercial, uncategorizable, or just plain unknown. Watching these
      pictures is like throwing a bag of week-old leftovers into the frying pan,
      with lots of hoisin sauce--sometimes the result is appetizing, sometimes
      not.

      Unfortunately, "Secret of the Andes" is supremely unappetizing, an example
      of mediocre filmmaking combined with the sensibilities of a Walt Disney
      production (okay, arguably ALL Disney productions are mediocre, but still�).

      The film is about a young girl who flies to South America to join her
      archeologist father (David Keith) in looking for the missing half of an
      ancient disk. Along the way she meets two kinds of magicians, one handsome
      and evil, the other odd-looking and good (Roshan Seth). The good magician
      not only helps her find her father's sought-after disk but also helps her
      get back in touch with her father, who's been too busy running across the
      planet digging deep holes (ever seen a more blatant euphemism for
      adultery-caused troubled marriages?) to give her the love she so clearly
      needs�

      So far so nauseating. Along the way we are given (like tourists) free
      samples of Andean magic, which mostly consists of statues and sculptures
      morphing into magical creatures. The special effects do not have a
      big-budget look, which could be excusable if they showed any hint of beauty
      or wit or imagination (think Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures" or Sam
      Raimi's "Evil Dead 2"). The film does have the occasional stunning image--a
      brilliant orange sunset, or Seth raising both arms to greet a deep blue sky.
      But for the most part the camerawork is flat, the sets
      unconvincing--everyone looks as if he or she was walking around one section
      of Disney World's EPCOT center in Florida.

      If I keep harping on Disney, it's not out of random spite--the film keeps
      reminding me of those toothless live-action flicks Disney used to churn out
      in the '70s, usually starring Jodie Foster or Kurt Russell (both of which,
      Russell especially, have acquitted themselves since, thank god). It's got
      the same kind of toothless dramatic conflicts--about children ignored by
      their parents, or about adults being essentially benign but clueless, or
      about how seeing one's heart clearly or being loved is a truer treasure than
      some silly archeological relic (the issue of whether or not the disk really
      belongs in a museum instead of with the natives who made it is never even
      raised).

      If there was one breakout performance, one moment with interesting
      implications, or at least a shot with an interesting visual texture�but no.
      The young actress playing the lead is insufferably cute and perky; David
      Keith and poor Nancy Allen (a great comedown from her days as smartmouthed
      whore in Brian De Palma's early films) both look embarrassed to be playing
      her parents. The most persuasive and authentic performance comes from
      Roshan Seth as the good-natured magician--which is odd, because Seth is East
      Indian, not South American.

      To be honest, there is one mildly interesting subplot--a priest (John
      Rhys-Davies) buries a statue of St. Timothy in the back yard; he puts the
      statue away during the time of Carnival, then puts it back in its place in
      the chapel to signify that Carnival is over. If the statue is ever damaged
      or stolen, then Carnival will not be over, and the poor priest seems unduly
      worried at the prospect.

      It would have helped if the film showed the more disturbing side of
      Carnival, the decadence and uninhibited sexuality--but this is a G-rated
      picture; all you get to see are a group of people in costumes having a
      cheerful good time.

      Then why, beneath his robes, is the parish priest's underwear bunching up so
      tightly? Is it because he--and the Church in general--has this thing
      against decadence and uninhibited sexuality? Is it because they can't stand
      to see people have too good a time, especially with Holy Week coming? I
      keep thinking that the true villain of the film really isn't the handsome
      but evil magician, but this overweight priest with the intensely piggy eyes,
      looking out from under heavy brows as if suspicious that someone, somewhere
      is having fun. I keep thinking that this temporary drought we're having
      because of Lent and the Holy Week might extend beyond April to the rest of
      the year or even several more years, thanks to the recent clampdown of the
      Church on the film "Live Show" in particular and on free artistic expression
      in general. Then all we'll have left to see is "family oriented" movies,
      and week-old leftovers with lots of hoisin sauce will become a staple diet.
      It's thoughts like these that make my underwear bunch up tightly, leaving me
      all hot and irritated�which was the little secret I wanted to talk to you
      about in the first place.

      (Comments? Email me at noelbotevera@...)

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