Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Nine Letters to Berta



Made the year after Bertolucci's Before the Revolution (1965), Basilio Martin Patino's touching first feature, set mainly in the university town of Salamanca, Spain, echoes and parallels that film in many respects, although here the loss of religious faith plays the role of a betrayed Marxism. Cast in the form of nine letters written to a young woman met by the hero (Emilio Gutierrez Caba) during his only trip abroad, the film has a loose, episodic structure built around various chapter headings ("The Family Rosary," "One Sunday Afternoon," "A World of Happiness," etc), and like many of the other youthful and sensitive European movies of this period, the impact of the French New Wave is salutary in the fresh use of film language: fast editing, slurred motion, and a freezing and unfreezing of certain images that makes them reverberate like pictures pasted into a scrapbook. Delicately acted and directed with a keen affection for the characters, this is surely one of the best Spanish films of the Franco period. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, April 28, 8:00, 443-3737)

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