Rizo | Chicago Reader

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Julio A. Sosa-Pietri's 1998 Venezuelan feature chronicles the life of fictional playwright Alejandro del Rey (Jean Carlo Simancas), whose avant-garde theater spectacles and leftist sympathies win him renown but alienate the country's cultural commissars. Much of the film takes place in Caracas in the 70s, when del Rey is entangled in affairs with two actresses while working on an ambitious play requested by his mentor. Sosa-Pietri presents del Rey as an arrogant but seductive romantic who likes to recite poetry and make love and who thumbs his nose at a lucrative offer to adapt Hamlet for TV with the melancholy Dane as a South American jungle baron. The disheveled Simancas is the picture of a childlike artist teetering between idealism and dissipation, but the film teeters as well, between soap opera and intellectual biography, and the abrupt cuts to friends reminiscing about del Rey only add to the jumble. Equally inexplicable is the film's coda 20 years later, in which del Rey stages his last play by the sea as if he were shooting for a J. Crew catalog. Sosa-Pietri could be suggesting that the artist's anarchism has given way to narcissism, but your guess is as good as mine.

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