Hour of the Star | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Hour of the Star

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Brazilian filmmaker Suzana Amaral's acclaimed debut feature, about a slovenly young secretary, 19 years old and still unhappily a virgin, searching for romance and fulfillment among the marginal employables of Sao Paulo. The story is almost too precious, with harsh urban reality grinding provincial innocence to dust, though to her credit, Amaral eventually moves beyond dreary third-world stereotype to meet underdevelopment on something like equal terms. Her (literally) unwashed heroine isn't always miserable (only sometimes) and resists the ideological obligation to be nobly oppressed: she entertains regressive fantasies of movie stardom, consults fortune tellers, and acquires a bizarre education by listening to the radio and watching TV soaps (she tries to impress her boyfriend with her knowledge of house flies, but he just tunes her out). None of this is especially fresh, though it does open out in formally arresting ways, and Amaral's clean, precisely structured images (remarkably controlled for a first-time director) show that she's learned her Akerman lessons well. With Marcelia Cartaxo, Jose Dumont, and Tamara Taxman; based on a novel by Clarice Lispector. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28, 7:00 and 9:00; Sunday, March 29, 5:30 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, March 30 through April 2, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114)

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