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Los Debutantes
cast: Antonella Rios, Nestor Cantillana, Juan Pablo Miranda, Alejandro Trejo and Roberto Farias

director: Andres Waissbluth

114 minutes (18) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Here we have it again, the trisected tale, returning to the beginning for new perspectives. If done badly, you get a 40-minute tale told over until too familiar. The format is attempted so often now that one strongly suspects it to be core to the technical film school curriculum. Television shows like Downtown and The Golden Hour will hopefully do the to and fro stories to death before too long. You want to bring another rewinding tale to the movie theatres then you better have a decent angle on it. Director Andres Waissbluth just about gets away with it in his debut Chilean feature Los Debutantes. This is done by the way in which the story presents its heroine, Gracia (Antonella Rios), with each curl back.

In approach one, despite the striptease, if you can describe the smudging of a whipped cream bra and panties stripping, she is romantic and lovely, pursued and sweetened by the attentions of young virgin, Victor (Juan Pablo Miranda). In take two she is highly sexed, and oh so active with Victor's brother, Silvio (Nestor Cantillano). Silvio has taken work with her sugar daddy, Don Pascual (Alejandro Trejo), a pornographer and thug, having impressed him by disarming a gun-toting patron in his strip salon. She is meanwhile manipulative and dangerous, plotting her wealthy benefactor's demise. The third go shows that she is the victim, the maid's child abused, knocked around, a virtual prisoner, tethered by Don Pascual's threats. If he can't possess her, no man can. There is an added impetus in her need to despatch him, a secret she has withheld from Don Pascual. She has been held to ransom by a competitor of Don Pascual, Don Marco (Eduardo Barril), who has learned of her love child and has secured the boy away until lethal terms have been met.

The appearance of the film on DVD is only weeks after its theatrical embarkation. A lot of the publicity has been geared around Ms Rios' dreamy and cream-decorated curves. A former local soap star she is not to be underrated as being nothing more than flesh furniture for the film. If that was the case, she could not pull off each chapter incarnation. Unabashed as she clearly may be in her nakedness, it is an especially game and tough call for the girl allowing herself to be slapped around in the bathroom unclothed. Her looks help the film, of course, though I don't know where that would leave most of the female audience. Vulnerable and tough, intelligent and fatalistic, the film would be a lot less without her. Alejandro Trejo is as villainous a slob as you could wish to hate, but the boy co-stars are mere boys, their characters basic story-feed.

At least Waissbluth doesn't resort to a Mexican standoff at the end of the film... oh, hang on a mo, yes he does. The Tarantino influence is everywhere. It is an unimportant film, made view worthy by its racy starlet. The soundtrack is of interest. The flimflam love story of the first third is pleasantly played out to what appear to be intros and segues extracted from good rock and pop tracks. The middle section shenanigans make their way forward to a mix of sounds, but predominantly a frantic jazz. The final third, moves into an ominous, Carpenter and Howarth-style, simplistic electronic sound. Not a bad film, but barely a good film.

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