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CELESTIAL CLOCKWORK (Mecanicas Celestes)(director/writer: Fina Torres; screenwriters: Telsche Boorman/Chantal Pelletier; cinematographer: Ricardo Aronovich; editor: Christiane Lack; cast: Ariadna Gil (Ana), Arielle Dombasle (Celeste), Evelyn Didi (Alcanie), Frederic Longbois (Armand), Lluis Homas (Italo), Chantal Aimee (Tina); Runtime: 86; October Films; 1996-Fr.)
This film is an entertaining and colorful spectacle and with enough verve to make it seem inventive, even if it isn’t.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If you like nonsensical musicals with plenty of singing, beautiful set designs, fantastic colors, a little bit of sex and witchcraft thrown in, and a fairy tale charm, then you will probably like this film which is in many ways like Flying Down to Rio. Though, I was hoping it could be more like those Jacques Demy or Jacques Rivette musicals, exhibiting a little more substance. But if you are in a mood for some light entertainment, this zany musical has plenty of oomph and should satisfy your Latino appetite for something that is sexy to look at.

The little known director of this film hails from Venezuela, which gives this French film a very natural Latin twist to its story and music. The film opens in a Venezuelan church where Ana (Ariadna) is about to get married, but for some inexplicable reason changes her mind and runs out of the church, grabs a taxi, packs her Maria Callas poster, and is on a plane for Paris still in her wedding dress. In Paris she rooms with four other countrywomen, finds a job as a housekeeper and another one in a bakery store, and decides to follow through on her dream of being a professional opera singer by taking lessons with a voice coach.

Ana’s ambition is to get the great impresario Italo (Lluis) to listen to her sing. Ana wants very much to be in his next production of Cinderella. Meanwhile Ana has problems with her visa, as her stay in Paris is about to legally end. The police are trying to keep close tabs on her, wanting her to leave the country. Armand (Frederic) is the gay waiter who befriends her and offers to marry her in a “phony marriage,” if she marries him in church. He wants to do this to please his mother — while she agrees to do this in order to stay in Paris.

In between the songs that can break out at any moment, which is like in Rivette’s Up Down Fragile, the ever-smiling Ana (after awhile her smile begins to grate on you) will meet a nervous psychoanalyst, Alcanie (Didi), whom she rooms with after drinking a love potion concocted by a witch doctor.

This is all done as harmless and silly fun much in the vein of a long list of Hollywood and French musicals, films that I was never partial to. This film is an entertaining and colorful spectacle and with enough verve to make it seem inventive, even if it isn’t.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”