Pantaleon Y Las Visitidoras

Francisco J. Lombardi’s 2000 adaptation of a Mario Vargas Llosa novel, also known as Captain Pantoja and the Special Services, reminds me of some of the duller John Ford hagiographies of the 50s about military men, such as The Wings of Eagles. A rather stiff captain in the Peruvian army, happily married and regarded as a moral exemplar, is ordered to put together a unit of young prostitutes to service soldiers stationed in remote parts of the Amazon jungle, once it’s tacitly decided by the higher-ups that local rapes diminish when the men are less sexually frustrated. The captain eventually loses his cool after falling for one of the women, and his failure to bribe a corrupt radio journalist leads to a potential scandal. This is nicely put together as storytelling, but the degree to which the prostitutes are sentimentally patronized by the film while the army officials are defended even in their hypocrisy smacks of the worst middle-class conformity. In Spanish with subtitles. 137 min. (JR)

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