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[whitespace] Norma Alejandro and Federico Lippi
Days in the Sun: Norma Alejandro and Federico Lippi find romance in 'Autumn Sun.'

Romancing Raoul

South Bay Jewish Film Festival gets under way with 'Autumn Sun'

By Richard von Busack

THE Argentinean film Autumn Sun (1996), which kicks off this year's South Bay Jewish Film Series, is filmed through a veil of nostalgia. The almost sepia-toned photography captures the evening light of an autumn day. But there's more than autumnal lushness in the romance; we get the sense that the golden light isn't all nostalgia but smog. In voice-over, a Buenos Aires radio DJ speaks as we see the cityscapes: "We may not have chosen each other, but we're together--there are neither losers nor winners in this town." The sudden cuts to images of violence on the street suggest brewing trouble; and at the beginning of the film, Clara Goldstein (Norma Alejandro) has her purse stolen by a street thief. The film conjures up the romantic era of moviemaking in the clip from To Have and Have Not Clara watches on TV, but despite this romanticism, there's still the problem of everyday life in Buenos Aires. There's the sense of machinery, human and otherwise, that will never work quite right again.

Clara's Jewish in a Catholic country. While she's tough enough to change her own tires at her age (pushing 60), she's still longing to find someone to settle down with. She places a personal ad in the paper, which is answered by a Uruguayan artist named Raoul (Federico Lippi) who has decided to pose as Jewish to win her over. Not too dismayed, Clara decides to keep Raoul around. The couple's slow coming to an understanding is compromised by Raoul's secretiveness and Clara's own hesitation. Pride worsens as we age.

Alejandro, nominated for an Oscar for her film The Official Story, displays a movie queen's deftness and easy glamour; she never lets Clara's prickliness overcome her charm. And Lippi, with his noble head of white hair and his self-amusement, recalls Leslie Nielsen in his pre-slapstick days. Director Eduardo Mignogna does slacken the pace in the end; true love is elusive enough without the sense that the romance has been greased with last-act delaying techniques.

Autumn Sun is the first screening of the South Bay Jewish Film series, which runs through Nov. 4 at the Towne Theater in San Jose. Also playing this week: A Letter Without Words (Oct. 10), a documentary that profiles Ella Lewenz, an underground filmmaker in Nazi Germany, and the 10-minute short "Silence" by Tana Ross, a memoir in animation by a victim of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Upcoming films include dramas from Germany, Israel and France; look for details in future issues.

The South Bay Jewish Film Festival runs Oct. 10-Nov. 4 at the Towne Theater in San Jose. 'Autumn Sun' shows Oct. 10 at 1pm, Oct. 13 at 7:30pm and Oct. 14 at 7:30pm. 'A Letter Without Words' and 'Silence' show Oct. 10 at 3:30pm. For more information, contact the South Bay Jewish Film Series at 408.793.5222.

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From the October 7-13, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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