The heroine of "Camila," a blueblood bachelorette in 1840s Argentina (Susu Pecoraro), is oppressed by her Catholic family, which wants her to shut up and make babies. Mooning in her boudoir with a cache of romance novels, she yearns for a romantic hero to rescue her. He shows up in the form of Ladislao (Imanol Arias), but there's a catch -- Mr. Right is Friar Right, toting his vows of chastity.
LOVE IN DOOM! DOOMED LOVE! ROMEO AND JULIET! ABELARD AND HELOISE! LOVEDOOM! DOOMLOVE! AAAARGH! Uh, sorry, got a little carried away.
As Halston told us years ago, basic black is the way to a woman's heart, and soon Camila and her heartthrob are steaming up the confessional together. He tries to scourge his flesh by flagellating himself, but as with those Iranian students on "Nightline," it just increases his ardor. They run away. Doom catches up with them. Otherwise, it wouldn't be doom.
Director Maria Luisa Bemberg has shot "Camila" through a smear of Vaseline, and it's so slow, the actors might be swimming in the stuff. With its gobs of white light and gauzy focus, "Camila" looks just the way a Harlequin romance should.
This conventional costume drama is gussied up with vague political overtones. When Camila, a closet intellectual, takes a morning stroll, she comes upon the head of the bookseller who smuggles forbidden tomes to her, impaled upon a fence. There is a military tyranny (led by the dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas) and a familial one -- Papa, a Pampas ass, thinks women should be seen and not heard, and considers an unmarried woman an abomination. All of this may have some resonance in Argentina, where the army ruled till last year. But here in the States, it's just old sombrero. Camila, opening today at the new K-B Paris at Mazza Gallerie, is rated R and contains nudity and sexual situations.