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MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 09/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Barbet Schroeder has directed some fine films: "Reversal of Fortune" is one and some not so good films: "Single White Female." All his films have shown Schoeder to be interesting at least and profound and vibrant at best. In his "Out Lady of the Assassins," Schroeder returns to the city of his youth, Medellin, Colombia after a very long absence. Schroeder shares this homecoming with the lead in this film, Fernando played by German Jaramillo who is shocked and revolted yet attracted to the city of his birth. You get the feeling that Fernando, weary with life and too many bad love affairs, has come home to die. We are all taught as children to revere life but Fernando has stepped back into a world where life is not held at a premium and people are gunned down in the streets by roving gangs of young men and boys whose philosophy is "kill first...or be killed." The tone of this movie reminded me very much of Francis Ford Coppola's in "Apocalypse Now" in which we view a world out of kilter; a world gone crazy. Fernando, a gay writer in his 50's meets a young man at a party, Alexis (Anderson Ballesteros) who looks to be 15 or 16 and they are drawn to each other and eventually fall in love. The usual route in this type of affair would have one using the other in one way or another. But Schoeder is too shrewd for that and Fernando and Alexis fall in love without hang-ups or regret. This film is also one of contradictions: Fernando, a unrepentant critic of the Catholic church yearns to see the beautiful gothic cathedrals of his youth. And longing to see the house and neighborhood in which he grew up he finds that his parents and relatives have been killed or died and that his neigborhood has been flattened by bombs and gunfire. "Our Lady of the Assassins" was shot in the same guerrilla-style look as was "Amores Perros," which gives the film a grainy newsreel look that enhances the world-gone-crazy tone of the movie. What makes this film such a sobering and astringent experience is the realization that Schoeder has exaggerated very little here and that the world of Medillin, Colombia is very much as he portrays it. A Major achivement."
The purgatory to which we may be headed
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Barbet Schroeder has given us a rare insight into what the future may hold should we continue on the course of senseless brutality we witness in the Media daily now. OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS is a terrifyingly realistic account of the world gone mad, of the use of the gun as the immediate stimulus response solution for opposing opinions/views/misunderstandings. The writer who is the main character seems to be time-warping into the future of what might eventually consume us. The terror is in the reportage manner in which this film is delivered. Beautiful young boys exist by making their bodies available to adults who have money or power or who afford food and protection. This is not a film about male hustlers: the relationships between our main character and his young men are full of warmth and tenderness, if edged by the acerbic razor of street rules of survival by the gun. The visual and poetic references to the cathedrals of this Colombian town under moral siege are even more poignant in these days of the Catholic church's dealing with its own demons. This beautifully made film is disturbing, but somehow it is not depressing because the need and fulfilment of love between two characters no matter how disparate rings loudly throughout. A major movie."
JAMES TRAVIS | Canada | 01/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is, by far, Barbet Shroeder's best effort. Perhaps his familiarity with the language, the country and its people themselves are contributing factors although Shroeder (Playboy August 2001) tells of the many problems and dangers he encountered while filming in Medellin.I have not yet read Fernando Vallejo's novel, on which the film is based, nor have I visited Columbia so I can deal with Shroeder's work at face value only. Still I was able to appreciate his accomplishment at a number of levels. As an introduction to the streets and los barrios of Medellin I was fascinated. As a documentary of the lives and sufferings of the resident populace I was moved. As cinema I was greatly impressed with the performance of German Jaramillo who plays Fernando, a man so jaded with life that he has surpassed the fear of death yet has difficulty making his exit for any number of reasons... One last love, a visit to a long ago cantina or church, the sound of a once familiar melody.His youthful lover Alexis (Anderson Ballestros) by way of contrast kills rather than engaging in senseless argumentation, or to preclude personal affront but most of all to avoid being killed. The pace of Alexis' life can only be slowed by sexuality, sleep or death. The music which soothes him is loud and frenetic. His sometime outward languidity cannot hide a turbulence bred of violence and danger yet he is unable to watch as Fernando mercifully kills a suffering animal.The killing portrayed here is not for those impressed with the Hollywood blood-bath type featuring good guys vs bad guys where the good guys somehow always prevail by way of superior cunning or fire-power. Here there is no justification. Only futile vengeance and self preservation. Nobody is right. No one wins. Shroeder keeps the film short and uses a bare skeleton of plot to extend the running time to ninety-eight minutes. It is only slightly more than enough and Shroeder can be forgiven for conforming to acceptable feature time length considering what he has been able to achieve.The dialogue is superb, cutting away the veneer of myth and civilization, as humanity is reduced to an insane parody of breeding, feeding, dying and removal of bodies. In one memorable scene Fernando rails sardonic at the determination of residents to dump corpses down a mountain side in spite of a sign clearly prohibiting the practice. Vultures circle above awaiting the opportunity to feast on the distorted carrion.The soundtrack ranges from pasodobles to Maria Callas and is beautifully integrated into the moods of Fernando and his youthful lovers.Anyone interested in how much can be communicated through the art of cinema should see this film and see it more than once -- in a cinema."
Love & Death in Medellin
Christopher Schmitz | Rocky River, Ohio United States | 04/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a love story between a lanky youth and 50-something writer whose hometown has gone to seed. Medellin for all practical purposes is a war zone, packed with moped assassins, battling gangs, graffiti, and decadence. Their bond proceeds from a hustler-john relationship to a love affair. Fernando provides the apartment and mullah; Alexis, all the charms of youth. Music is used to illustrate the generation gap: Fernando favors the mellifluous arias of Maria Callas, and Alexis prefers the kind of grinding punk that sounds like someone dropped screws into a blender & hit "puree." The camera doesn't shy away from their bedroom. The two sleep together, and in one potently sensual scene, Alexis takes a swig of tequilla and drools it into the man's mouth. Strolling through the city, Fernando reminisces about how it once was: his old house, the church, the bodegas, the cantinas. He walks down memory lane in the presence of a younger man as James Whale did in "Gods and Monsters" (1998) with Clayton Boone.But the anarchy of Medellin (Colombia) begins to target Alexis. In this world, the grudges multiply exponentially as someone keeps avenging the death of a friend, relative, or fellow gang member. Corpses pile on a hill; the violence of the gangs & drug cartels is eating the city alive.Our Lady conflates the violence and sexuality of Alexis' life into one gorgeous image: fireworks popping overhead, which could be a perfect backdrop for a romantic night at Fernando's, if Alexis didn't know it's also a celebration that a shipment of cocaine got through to America. Throughout the film, the boy is stalked by his fate.Before death intrudes and Fernando cradles the cold limp Alexis like a Pieta, nostalgic memories, witty banter, black humor, & unabashed sexuality made their bond very compelling to watch.
Too bad we feel more threatened by sex than by aggression. Alexis at heart is a lover not a fighter. The early moment in which he undresses before Fernando in the "Butterfly Room," scrawny and vulnerable but swarthy and beautiful, we know this. But undressing makes his gun fall with a hard clack to the floor. He is the boy of doom. They must make the most of their time."
V R F | chi-ca-go | 12/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For some reason this film will not let me go. I come back to it again and again. It is starting to become my favorite film, period. So much is said in these other reviews that I do not need to add more, so let this review simply state that this film shall long stand out as Barbet's best (even better than Barfly and Reversal of Fortune, and certainly superior to Single White Female,) and one of the best examples of guerrilla film making. My only complaint with the DVD is that there are no special features. But perhaps that is a shallow complaint. The film is perfect and needs no accompaniment. Standing alone, it shines as pure magic and everything that cinema should be."