Monday, October 15, 2007

Love In The Time of Cholera -...

Love In The Time Of Cholera -As a young man Florentino (Javier Bardem) falls deeply in love with Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) based on little more than a glance and an exchange of messages. Florentio's devotion endures unrequited through over 53 years and a series of discouraging events: a separation enforced by Fermina's father (John Leguizamo); a sudden, nearly brutal rejection by Fermina herself, who sees her youthful love as infatuation; Fermina's sometimes stormy marriage to a handsome and successful doctor (Benjamin Bratt); and Florentino's own diarized succession of over 600 carnal partners, only one of whom (Laura Harring) seems to threaten Florentino's devotion to Fermina. We will partially spoil the ending here by noting that Florentino, a man who has duly recorded his own affairs with over 600 women in an eccentric "dual love" quest to survive the pain of living without the object of his devotion, somehow seems to be telling the truth, or at least a truth, when he comically claims to be a virgin who has waited fifty-three years for his true love in a climactic scene with Fermina.

Florentino is so odd at the film's outset that he pushes the boundary where suspension of disbelief fails, but this character, a product of a Pulitzer prize winning novelist, an Oscar winning screenwriter and a brilliant actor, all of whom had something they wanted very much to say about love, never crosses that boundary and the film succeeds on his back. It's no accident that letters and written messages seem to be the media of romantic love in scene after scene. Many of the film's characters are finely drawn, wisely cast and well acted but Florentino's odd combination of Don Quixote and Don Juan, with a dash of Sancho Panza, is one for the ages.

I confess, I am the only person on the planet who has not read Love In The Time Of Cholera. Gabriel Garcia Marquez provided notes as the film was written and apparently appreciated the final product. Much of the film was shot on location in Cartagena, Columbia, the novel's unidentified setting, where the light, the mountains and the river all contribute a flavor of magic while interior scenes are shot in buildings that actually date back to the novel's setting at the turn of the twentieth century. The cast includes several North American stars, but the Europeans and South Americans more than hold their own, even though the picture is filmed in English. The sound track, including three original compositions written and performed by Shakira, adds to the Columbian texture.

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