April 16, 2014
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fake fortune teller unable to predict own fate

By Pablo Suárez
For the Herald
The Argentine feature Visiones, written by Nicolás Cisco and directed by Juan De Francesco tells the story of Marta, a middle-aged woman passing herself off as a gypsy fortune teller. She cheats naive women out of their money pretending she’s able to get back the men they love and who left them for other women. The film stars Roxana Randón, Adrián Ero, Kevin Sztajn, Lara Crespo and Julieta Van Lacke, and José Luis Alfonzo.

Marta is aided by Esteban, a young and good-looking womanizer who first seduces the women he meets in bars and coffee shops, and then abandons them — but not without first leaving a flyer with the name of the fake fortune teller at their houses. So the women go see Marta, and this is when she dazzles them for good: working with Esteban, she makes them believe she’ll bring their men back. In fact, it’s all a carefully orchestrated mise en scene. But things begin to get ugly when Marta begins to have real visions, and sees Esteban trying to kill her and steal all her money.

All right, so it sounds kind of predictable and lacking in originality — it’s a story about a fake fortune teller who begins to have real visions and discover her life is in danger. But if these were the only problems in Visiones, then it wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, many great films have been made out of trite, formulaic premises. But that’s hardly the case here for the problems are found in all aspects of filmmaking, starting from the very, very unconvincing acting — ranging from over the top to simply stiff. On the one hand, you can tell Roxana Randón, who plays Marta, must be a good actress... in another film by another director. On the other hand, the rest of the cast are completely forgettable.

More than a film, Visiones may be seen as a very mediocre soap opera shot with no imagination. This film is neither classical nor innovative. It follows conventions as to how to shoot a film, but it follows them in a lousy fashion. You know, you get shot one, then the reverse shot, then back to shot one, then reverse shot again, then back to shot one... almost endlessly. The editing is monotonous, which doesn’t help much. In accordance with this, the cinematography is dull, and the visual design doesn’t convey anything other than what’s plain obvious. Flat would be the best word to describe the overall effect of the film’s aesthetics.

However, the huge problems are in the screenplay itself: why would all these women resort to a fortune teller to solve their love problems? And even if they would, would they seek the assistance of a fortune teller who promotes her services on a flyer?

As for Esteban, how can he be so effective at leaving and going back to them precisely at the right moment so that the charade is never revealed? We’re talking about people, not pieces of machinery that would do this or that exactly when they have to.

There are many other contrivances, including how all these unfortunate women, who meet at the fortune teller’s, refuse to put two and two together.

Or take the film’s tone, which starts as a drama, a character study of two delinquents, two bit swindlers that go nowhere.

Then it attempts to be some kind of a thriller when the element of suspense is added, which does not work out at all — but for that matter, neither did the drama before. Slowly, it becomes a cautionary tale, and this is on purpose — too bad you couldn’t care less about the characters.

And in the end it awfully mutates into a moral tale as it tells the protagonists (and viewers) that ripping people off is not a good thing to do. Oh, well, like I didn’t know that.

The funny part is that the only times when the film does have some appeal and breathes fresh air is when it becomes a non intended parody of itself.

This is when you see all the potential the filmmakers had and miserably lost.

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