Secret of the Andes
- Secret of my undies
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
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
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
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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