Writers: Rolf de Heer
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Timothy Spall, Hugo Weaving, Cathy Tyson
Duration: 75 mins
Directed by: Rolf de Heer
Before Rolf de Heer made The Tracker and Alexandra's Project he'd been in the wilds of French Guiana making The Old Man Who Read Love Stories with Richard Dreyfuss and Hugo Weaving. The tales of difficulties in the shoot are legendary, the difficulty in getting it distributed is the stuff of nightmares.... but now here it is in our cinemas. Adapted from Luis Sepulveda's short novel the film delves into the magic realism for which South American writing is justifiably famous. Richard Dreyfuss plays Antonio Bolivar, a 60 year old recluse living in a backwater town on the edge of a river. His passion is reading great love stories, something he shares with Josefina, Cathy Tyson, who works for the town's mayor, Timothy Spall, known locally as the Slimy Toad. Antonio's passion is supplied by the visiting dentist, Hugo Weaving, whose qualifications seem to involve more extraction than bridgework. When a jaguar begins killing humans in revenge for the death of her cubs a hunt is organised which means that Antonio has to come face to face with his past and his present. Listening to well-known actors like Dreyfuss, Weaving and Spall speaking with Spanish accents is at first rather distracting but the seductive nature of the story soon takes over. The film is marked not only by really beguiling performances from the lead actors but by a romanticism that is not merely sentimental, it's about the stuff of life. Also impressive in the film is Victor Bottenbley who plays Nushino, a formidable part of Antonio's past. It's possibly hard to reconcile this film with Rolf de Heer's previous work, but it's a real mark of the filmmaker that he seeks out material like this and goes to extraordinary lengths to bring it to the screen.