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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BRAZILIAN DIRECTOR MEIRELLES TURNS TOWARD KENYA

THE CONSTANT GARDENER Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles opens this weekend in Minneapolis. Meirelles was the director of the astonishing CITY OF GODS and I was able to attend an advanced screening with the director in attendance to take questions from the audience.

THE CONSTANT GARDNER is based on John le Carrés novel is set in Kenya and follows Justin Quayle (Ralph Fienes) as a British diplomat and his bold wife Tessie (Rachel Weisz) as they venture into Africa to expose a story of international political intrigue. Meirelles opens the film with its ending, so if you are a fan of the genre of pizzling thrillers with plot twists and turns you might find the revelation in the first few minutes that our romantic lead gets quelled a bit disappointing. This isn't to say there are not twists and turns, changes of fate and subplots yet to be unturned in the course of THE CONSTANT GARDNER.

My romantic sympathies went toward Rachel Weisz's portrayal of Tessie since I have known many courageous women who staked their lives for their belief in justice.

In the course, there was a few short moments when the film seem to steer close to being a contemporary study in perception as Justin attempts to unravel Tessie's voyage into the dark underside of medical experimentation in Kenya. Was she disorganized, reckless and flirtatious or was she brilliantly coy and covert in her attempts to expose an horrific cruelty toward humanity? And then, after death, do we romanticize and mourn disproportionally to satisfy our dream of a past that never was? Ultimately, Meirelles decides not to take this story there and sticks with the thriller for its moral impact.

What surprised me the most was finally meeting Meirelles as I expected the director of CITY OF GODS to be dark, brooding and deeply contemplative and instead found him to be almost pixie like in his expression and temperament. Meirelles spent many years in the commercial advertising world and then personally invested his own time and money making CITY OF GODS which became an international sensation and earned him an Oscar nomination.

Meirelles perspective being from Brazil gives THE CONSTANT GARDNER an added perpective and edge on the western influence in third world countries and economy.

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