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Footloose in Nice

Waif of the Future: Ovidiu Balan in 'Mondo.'

A child shall lead them in 'Mondo'

By Richard von Busack

DIRECTOR TONY GATLIF'S Mondo is sweet but tedious, like that French children's classic The Red Balloon, only ballooned up to an hour and a half. Mondo (Ovidiu Balan), an orphan from somewhere, materializes in a bustling seaside city; he befriends various street people who shelter him, feed him and teach him the alphabet. End of plot. The film does its best with fine locations (in the old part of Nice) and the appeal of its young lead, but it's ultimately like an adaptation of a children's book--and a calculating children's book at that. Kids old enough and patient enough to read the subtitles might be charmed.

Director Gatlif previously made Latcho Drom, which also lacked a story to go along with the visuals. Allegorical twists and intriguing sights (such as a gentle surf full of discarded oranges covered with Arabic inscriptions) are unconnected with either any narrative flow or a convincing dreamlike atmosphere. It's the sort of movie you leave saying, "Wasn't the photography wonderful!"

Mondo (Unrated; 88 min.), directed by Tony Gatlif, written by Jean-Marie G. Le Clezio and starring Ovidiu Balan, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the July 31-Aug. 6, 1997 issue of Metro.

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