Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Mystery of Eva Peron
"Eva Peron Was A Saint And It Took Forever To Find A Place For Her Coffin"
Review by Muchacha Motorista

The last two documentaries I’d seen prior to The Mystery of Eva Peron were on John Steinbeck and Eleanor Roosevelt, so it isn’t like I require my documentaries to be MTV-style, flashy and current. I went into The Mystery of Eva Peron from what I consider to be a fair angle: I liked Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita and was interested to know more about the woman behind the character.

Instead, I was subjected to a mind-numbing two hours of jumbled footage and interviews telling me what a saint Evita was and little else.

I hardly know where to begin on the disorganization of The Mystery of Eva Peron. It jumps from her social work, to her death, to her birth, to her coffin, to her social work, to her moving to Buenos Aires, to the political atmosphere after her death, to her social work, to her coffin (again and again). As soon as I’d start getting some semblance of a timeline, the film would cut to an overly dramatic reenactment of people trying to figure out what to do with her coffin. I was left wondering more than once, “Wait--what’s going on here?”

Almost as distracting as the poor organization is the shameless slant. The tagline on the DVD cover is “The true story of Evita as told by her Father Confessor, her friends and… her enemies.” (Those ellipsis are indeed part of the tag line. Dramatic, eh?)

So you think you’re going to get a well-rounded story, right? Instead you get interview after interview about how wonderful Eva Peron was. For example, when a director of some of Eva’s early films is asked if she was a good actress, he replies that her talent was “not apparent” only because she was so nervous. In an interview with a prisoner (and torture victim of the regime) is asked about Eva’s social work he says to deny it would be like denying the color on flowers. This, from a man who had received electric shock torture until he went unconscious. When describing Eva’s death, her priest says she was holding his hand, didn’t spasm, wasn’t scared, and didn’t cry, but quietly "released her spirit to the Creator," and "had a beautiful light on her face." And there were a number of quotes about how her relationship with her husband was “sexless” or “not intimate,” but instead, a meeting of the minds only. How noble.

I will say this for the movie: it contains interviews with people who lived at an interesting time in Argentina’s history, and do have the right to talk about Eva Peron. I found their first-hand stories are infinitely more interesting than their praise on Eva’s social work.

It's only fair to mention some of the great footage in the film. There’s plenty of filler of people in crowds cheering or protesting (clearly from a different time), but there are also little gems of Eva’s early films, her trips to orphanages, her speeches, and her hobnobbing with leaders in Europe. It’s more interesting to search the look on her face for a glimpse of humanity, for a moment she forgets she’s on camera, as opposed to her commonly-seen public persona.

If you have a really deep-seated interested in Argentina’s history or in Eva Peron, this might be the hot ticket for you. But if you just like documentaries or the Evita musical, for goodness sakes, please avoid The Mystery of Eva Peron. Don’t cry for me, but don’t make the two hours I wasted in order to warn you have been in vain.


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