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the pathetic caverns - movies by title - Dark Side of the Heart

eclectic reviews and opinions

Dark Side of the Heart (El Lado Oscuro del Corazón)

D & S: Eliseo Subiela

(1992, DVD 2003)

Dark Side of the Heart didn't live up to my fond memories from a festival screening over ten years ago, but I still think it's one of the best efforts to bring the magical realism of authors like Julio Cortàzar and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to the screen in ways both positive and negative. Darío Grandinetti's portrayal of idealistic young poet Oliverio, who is searching for a woman who can fly, is credible enough, as is Sandra Ballesteros in the role of the prostitute with a cache of poetry books, if not a heart of gold. But the linear unfolding of its plot offers few suprises to match the opening sequence in which Olvierio dumps a lover who doens't live up to his standard. Subilea's use of metaphor throughout is heavy-handed there are too many scenes with Oliverio staring at toy train doggedly circling a loop of track, and the character played by Nacha Guevara is, quite literally, a walking cliché.

The intrusion of the fantastic into the everyday world is the hallmark of magical realism, but some authors in the genre succumb to sexism as well: their men are artistic, sensitive, and intelligent; their women are beautiful and mysterious, but not deep thinkers; they may motivate the men, but they seldom move the plot. Dark Side of the Heart unfortunately honors this tradition; the film's female characters are almost exclusively there to be objectified and pined over.

Subiela's films are appallingly difficult to see in the United States. I'm not sure Dark Side of the Heart was ever even picked up for US distribution, although it screened at festivals. For many years, Man Facing Southing East was his only film available on video. I was delighted to see this film released on DVD, and despite my reservations about this film, I hope that releases of other Subiela works such as Don't Die Without Telling Me Where You're Going will follow. But I must report that Cinematica's product is distinctly disappointing. The full-screen (no letterbox option) DVD has a handful of glitches which appear to have been faults in the print used for the transfer. Unfortunately for English-speaking viewers, it also retains the original white subtitles, which nearly vanish in scenes where the background is light.

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