A Sexy 'Street'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005

In Marcos Bernstein's first stint in the director's chair, the screenwriter of the 1998 Brazilian film "Central Station" could not do better than to reunite with his leading lady from that marvelous drama. Who better than the steely but soulful Fernanda Montenegro to play Bernstein's latest heroine, a character who, like the one she played in "Central Station," presents a complex and challenging mix of the hard-boiled and softhearted?

In "The Other Side of the Street," Montenegro is Regina, a 65-year-old divorcee who spends her days spying, to put it bluntly, on her neighbors. Part of a network of police informants known as the Senior Service, Regina (code-named Snow White) is not your average snoop, going beyond the peeking-out-the-window treatment to trolling the nightclubs of Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana neighborhood for signs of child prostitution. In other words, she takes what she does very, very seriously, and she's good at it.

One night, just as she's starting to doze off behind the binoculars, Regina sees what she believes to be a murder, as her neighbor across the way, a handsome retired judge named Camargo (Raul Cortez), appears to poison his wife. When her police contact (Luiz Carlos Persy) fails to act on her tip, Regina takes matters even further into her own hands than Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window" did, meeting -- and eventually going out on dates with -- the suspect.

Unlike Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film, which this film resembles only superficially, "The Other Side of the Street" is more love story than thriller, with the mystery providing only slack tension and the December-December romance that ultimately develops between Regina and Camargo crackling with drama and sexual tension aplenty. That's right, I said sexual tension. Bernstein's lovers, you see, are not just lonely, as it turns out, but lusty, and the sensitive treatment of their physical relationship (complete with insecurity about wrinkles and scars) is one of the most honest and touching I've seen. Montenegro and Cortez breathe real life and heat into this tale of two unlikely, and mutually mistrusting, lovebirds.

The Other Side of the Street (Unrated, 97 minutes) -- Contains brief vulgar language, a sensitively shot bedroom scene and mild suspense. In Portuguese with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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