Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pantaleon y las Visitadores (Captain Pantoja and the Special Services, 2000) ***

I chose this one simply because my Peruvian friend suggested it as a good example of Peruvian cinema.  Interestingly, it is a remake of a 1975 film based on a Peruvian novel.  It turned out to be quite good, and surprisingly deep, given the subject matter.
Army Captain Pantaleon is selected for a top-secret mission.  Soldiers in remote jungle outposts are becoming restless, so far from their wives and girlfriends.  A number of rapes in far-flung villages have been blamed on the military, and the generals decide that a solution is needed.  Pantaleon is recruited to discreetly establish a military prostitution service.  The women, called Visitors, will see to the needs of the soldiers and be well paid, but the whole operation has to be kept quiet.
Pantaleon turns out to be the perfect choice, although he accepts it reluctantly.  As a newly-wed, clean-cut, Boy Scout type, he is less susceptible than many would be to the inherently corrupting nature of his task.  He plots and executes the operation with a businesslike efficiency that makes his superiors proud.  Unfortunately, when Pantaleon stands up for his Visitors publicly, he learns an unfortunate lesson about military expediency.
Rather than simply playing the story off for laughs or melodrama, the film strikes a nice balance of humor and realism.  Most impressively, it develops the character of Pantaleon, who initially seems so squeaky-clean, but turns out to be very complex and noble.  “Pantaleon y las Visitadores” is by turns funny, sexy, and poignant, and well worth watching.

3 stars out of 5

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