Eva Peron

on December 18, 1996 by Dale Winogura
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   An illuminating biography that provocatively grapples with complex polemics, "Eva Peron" makes the connections between a leader's personal life and political convictions with forceful intelligence and cinematic acuity. Argentina's eminently worthy entry for this year's foreign-language Oscar eschews historical spectacle, providing a perfect companion piece to Alan Parker's overpowering revolutionary canvas "Evita."
   The cerebral, densely structured screenplay by Jose Pablo Feinman centers on Argentina's beloved first lady, Eva Duarte de Peron (Esther Goris), in her 1951 election bid for vice president. She attempts to persuade her controversial husband, President Juan Peron (Victor Laplace), to run with her on the same ticket. But opposing political factions, secretly plotting to overthrow the Peron regime, see her as a threat to their power because of her popular charity efforts for her country's poor masses.
   The gloriously magisterial and gutsy performance that Goris delivers begins as a hard-nosed, defiant demagogue sternly negotiating with striking workers and political rivals. Her charismatic and sympathetic qualities emerge during the famous August 1951 rally, during which a large crowd of supporters encourage her to run for office. But, when Eva is diagnosed with cancer, her tragic vulnerability and earthy saintliness gradually take over. The sturdy authoritative abilities and warm emotional accessibility in Laplace's portrayal humanize the dictator's character without glorifying him. Both Goris and he express the lure of fascist tendencies with such realistic understanding that it's easy to see how power can be used and abused.
   The handsomely modest, resourceful production is directed by Juan Carlos Desanzo with focused, graceful intimacy. He judiciously employs a couple of flashbacks, keeping his eye securely on conveying timeless ideological dilemmas that affect an entire country. Though the film sometimes bogs down in verbose intellectualism and TV soap-opera melodrama, overall it's handled with sharp, incisive artistry. Starring Esther Goris, Victor Laplace and Pepe Novoa. Directed by Juan Carlos Desanzo. Written by Jose Pablo Feinman. Produced by Hugo Eduardo Lauria. An Aleph S.A. production; no distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 120 min.
Tags: Esther Goris, Victor Laplace, Pepe Novoa, Juan Carlos Desanzo. Written by Jose Pablo Feinman. Produced by Hugo Eduardo Lauria. An Aleph S.A. production, drama
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