Film Scouts Reviews

"Illuminated Heart"

by David Sterritt

If the festival's last days have produced an out-and-out misfire, it's "Illuminated Heart" by Argentine director Hector Babenco, who counts the scorching "Pixote," the popular "Kiss of the Spider Woman," the insinuating "Ironweed," and the ambitious "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" among his diverse credits. None of those adjectives (except possibly ambitious) applies to the new picture, about a Jewish slacker who falls in love with a mentally ill woman who imagines she's the reincarnation of Anne Frank and hangs out with a group determined to prove the existence of an afterlife by photographing a human soul. (The screenplay appears to have soul and aura confused with each other, and it's not clear how a photo of either would demonstrate the existence of life after death; but metaphysical accuracy is not among the film's virtues.) The couple has many adventures including a sleeping-pill overdose and two mystical-photography sessions, but eventually the boy heads for Los Angeles to become a filmmaker while the girl returns to a mental institution and then disappears from view. The story ends 20 years later as our hero returns home and meets a boozed-up woman who sings "My Foolish Heart" and tantalizes us with the notion that she may or may not be our heroine. The filmmaking is uninspired, but the main problem is a narrative that simply fails to head in interesting or intelligible directions, veering off on one poorly chosen tangent after another. Babenco is capable of vastly better work, and he'll surely recoup his artistic losses before long. It's just a pity that such a poorly formed work should be placed on display in the closing hours of the world's most closely watched film festival.

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