Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Antonio (1973)

          Parallel to his music career, affable Tejano singer Trini Lopez dabbled in acting for movies and TV, notably appearing in The Dirty Dozen (1967). Apparently eager for a starring role, Lopez produced this low-budget comedy, which was shot entirely in Chile. He plays a naïve potter who lives in a small seaside village with his wife and their young son. One day, a boisterous American (Larry Hagman) arrives by boat in the local port and unloads precious cargo—a brand-new Mercedes. When the car malfunctions, Antonio keeps the wayward American company. When Hagman’s character grows impatient with life in a tiny town and makes other travel arrangements, he gives the inoperative car to Antonio. Most of the story dramatizes complications that the illusion of sudden wealth creates for a man who lives among desperately impoverished neighbors. So in essence, this is an old-fashioned fairy tale capped with a twist ending. Alas, many aspects of Antonio are questionable, from the thin story to amateurish supporting performances.
          Characterizations are a special problem, because nearly everyone onscreen is one-dimensional, beginning with the blandly saint-like Antonio. Since the sole exception is Hagman’s character, it’s probable Hagman embellished his scenes—wearing a gaudy fringe jacket and decorating moments with comedic eye-rolls and face-plants, Hagman tears through the movie like a tornado. Yet this is Lopez’s show, and he’s not up to the task. Alternating between a confused grimace and a dopey smile, Antonio seems too childlike to function in the real world, and most of his decisions are foolish—not least the arbitrary choice to drop everything in order to entertain a stranger. That Antonio occasionally picks up a guitar to sing a bouncy song in that familiar Trini Lopez style merely adds to the clumsiness of the film. If Antonio is sophisticated enough to play and sing pop songs, then why . . . ? Pondering these sorts of things is likely beside the point. Antonio is a gentle homily designed for undemanding viewers, and as such it’s basically adequate.

Antonio: FUNKY

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