(director/writer: Luis Puenzo; screenwriter: from the novel by Albert Camus; cinematographer: Félix Monti; editor: Juan Carlos Macías; cast: William Hurt (Doctor Bernard Rieux), Sandrine Bonnaire (Martine Rambert), Jean-Marc Barr (Jean Tarrou), Robert Duvall (Joseph Grand), Raul Julia (Cottard), Jorge Luz (Old Man with the cats), Victoria Tennant (Alicia Rieux), China Zorilla (Emma Ricux), Bruno Chmelik (Felipe Orthon); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Christian Charret/John Pepper/Jonathan Prince/Óscar Kramer/Cyril de Rouvre; Republic Pictures Home Video; 1992-France/UK/Argentina-in English)
“Bleak, dull and slow-moving adaptation of Albert Camus’ 1947 novel.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Bleak, dull and slow-moving adaptation of Albert Camus’ 1947 novel about a Dr. Bernard Rieux (William Hurt) confronting a bubonic plague outbreak in the fictional contemporary port city of Oran in Latin America (shot in Buenos Aries, Argentina, which in the minor Camus novel was a metaphor for the Nazi Occupation of France). Luis Puenzo (“Old Gringo”/”The Whore and the Whale”/”The Official Story”) directs and writes, and whose leaden dialogue, inept pacing and lack of inviting melodrama keep it as an unbearable bore. It stands as strictly a literary work that’s unable to become effective as a work of cinema. The film reteams actors William Hurt and Raúl Julia (they starred in the 1985 “Kiss of the Spider Woman”).

After the dedicated Dr. Rieux sounds the alarm about a plague in Oran, the authorities round up and quarantine the infected in a stadium. The film concerns itself with how the citizens face death while stuck in a fascist city and in panic try to flee. The main characters besides the fearless doctor are Martine Rambert (Sandrine Bonnaire), a French tv correspondent, who has a half-hearted romance with the sullen doctor and finds she’s prevented from fleeing the stricken city by circumstances she can’t control; and Jean Tarrou (Jean-Marc Barr) as a French tv cameraman on assignment with Martine, who bravely volunteers to aid in helping the vics.

The point of Camus’s novel is about what happens when civilized order breaks down and how differently people deal with it. A simple aim that this muddled film couldn’t even get across, as its political oppression message is not lucidly delivered.

La peste (1992)