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Read past reviews by the Film Gang

Our Lady of The Assassins
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

Thomas Wolfe said it. Most of us have discovered it. And Fernando, the protagonist of "Our Lady Of The Assassins", discovers it in an extreme way. If you've been away for a long while, really, 'you can't go
home again.'

I recommend this movie. It's not fun to watch, but it's important to see. Not since "The Killing Fields" has a movie so devastated me. "Our Lady..." may be the bleakest movie I have ever seen. But to avert our eyes from it is to pretend that evil does not exist. I think it's because the movie unfolds in the approximate present that it carries an extra dose of verisimilitude. And the way Barbet Schroeder, the director and screenwriter, tells this story, it almost feels like a documentary.

The movie was filmed at great risk to the director. Reportedly, he received death threats and moved to and from the shoots in an armored car. There were no elaborate sets. The movie was filmed on the streets and in the churches of Medellin, infamous capital of Colombia's drug cartels. 

Almost never do I reveal the storyline of a movie. But I feel compelled to tell you just a little bit about this one. The plot is not complicated. The movie's power probably won't manifest until you're out of the theatre,
which, by the way, you'd best visit soon. This dark film doesn't have commercial legs. It's playing to small crowds in the smallest of the Nickelodeon's four theatres, in downtown Santa Cruz.

"Our Lady Of The Assassins" tells us the story of a few months in the life of Fernando V., a writer besotted with ennui. Fernando has been everywhere and done everything. Spiritually bankrupt, he has returned to his hometown, Medellin, after a thirty year absence. We soon learn that he's come home to die. 

An old pal invites Fernando to a party and offers him a homecoming present - the young Alexis - but not before we learn that Fernando has slept with over a thousand boys. They retire to The Butterfly Room for a
discretely filmed encounter. Before the night is over, Fernando and Alexis have agreed to meet the next day for a pilgrimage to a shrine that Alexis knows.

And thus begins a relationship that lasts, in one form or another, for the duration of the film. We follow this pair, mistaken by some as father and son, throughout the city. Mostly on foot, sometimes in taxis, and once on the elevated train, they roam. Their home base is Fernando's inherited apartment. Medellin is a city of four million set in a valley surrounded by mountains. Squalor and opulence exist side by side. But what
Distinguishes this city and has transformed it into an urban nightmare is an apparently casual compromise with murder by assassination. Indeed, there is a minor character in the film who looks quite like the grim reaper. 

 We're used to violence in the movies. Too many of us seem to expect a dollop of it. And we may vaguely recall stories of children's crusades, but nothing quite prepares us for what this film delivers. We watch an intelligent man rendered impotent in every way but sexually, by an army of child assassins, not the least of whom is his sex toy boy. 

 "Our Lady Of The Assassins" is the story of a culture gone mad and of a man who refuses to intervene. It's a devastating portrait of the banality of evil pushed to the extreme. Given what we're all going through now, in the aftermath of 9/11, "Our Lady Of The Assassins" may be too difficult to see for some of us. But if you're feeling strong, don't miss this important movie. It's a cautionary tale we need lest it become a harbinger we'll all dread.

For The Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.