Love for Sale

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Strand Releasing

NEW YORK -- This latest film by Brazil's Karim Ainouz doesn't have the panache of his exuberant transvestite film "Madame Sata," but it's still a well-observed slice of social realist cinema. The downbeat tale of a young woman turning to prostitution to escape life in a claustrophobic Brazilian town is well written, and benefits from naturalistic performances. It should do OK business in small upscale urban venues, though lack of a strong marketing angle might pose a problem.

The story revolves around Hermila (Hermila Guedes), a young woman striving to escape her oppressively small hometown in northeastern Brazil. Young and pretty but without prospects, she decides to raffle herself. The winner will get, as Hermila describes it, "a night in paradise." Dramatic tension is increased when a caring ex-boyfriend tries to keep her from leaving town.

Cinematography by Walter Carvalho ("Central Station") successfully evokes the bleak feeling of a nowhere town. His compositions remind you of the work of famed American photographer Steven Shore, who made a career out of depicting such places in an esthetic style.

But "Love for Sale," which opened Aug. 15, is generally an actors' piece. Guedes convincingly essays the role of a desperate innocent who gets slightly out of her depth. Some angry scenes with her mother ignite with dramatic intensity, and she subtly portrays a sad indifference towards the man who loves her. The final shot, a long static take of the town's road sign, has an Antonioni-esque feel.
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