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Picks and Pans Review: Camila

updated 04/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/01/1985 01:00AM

In 1847 a young woman of the Buenos Aires upper class, Camila O'Gorman, ran away with a handsome priest, Father Ladislao Gutierrez. That real-life scandal is the story of Camila, directed by a 62-year-old Argentine grandmother who didn't start making films until she was in her 40s. Argentine actress Susú Pecoraro plays the young woman with convincing passion. While dreaming of her one grand love, she is also developing a political consciousness in reaction to the patriarchal, dictatorial regime run by her family's friends. Spanish actor Imanol Arias, cast as Gutierrez, with intense emotional power plays a man who sheds his whole identity when he sheds his priestly vestments. At her first encounter with Arias, Pecoraro falls in love. He rebuffs her, inwardly battling the temptation she represents. But soon after that first meeting, they flee to the countryside posing as man and wife. In a nation ruled as much by the Catholic church as by its government, however, the rebellious example of a woman's love for her parish priest cannot be ignored. The authorities pursue the lovers as criminals. While Pecoraro and Arias form the emotional core of Camila (a best-foreign-film Oscar nominee), the controlled direction of Maria Luisa Bemberg lends the film a charged verisimilitude. She vividly re-creates the mannered society of 19th-century Buenos Aires and unflinchingly trains her camera on such images as a rebel's head impaled on a pole by government assassins. There is a minor distraction: often ungrammatical, too literally translated English subtitles. This is a remarkable film, exploring the connections between personal and political freedom in the most human terms. (Not rated)

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