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Open Your Eyes [Abre los ojos] (1997)


This film, the original version of Tom Cruise's Vanilla Sky, is a stylish, ambitious thriller that may not quite achieve the profundity it's aiming for but nonetheless plays fascinating tricks with reality and imagination, dreams and waking, and the degree to which we can trust what we perceive, even about ourselves.  Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) is a handsome but dissipated rich boy, notorious for never spending two nights with the same woman.  But on the evening of a party in his apartment he discovers that his latest conquest, Nuria, has no intention of being discarded like all the rest.

That night he falls in love, or in lust at any rate, with his best friend's date, Sofia (Penélope Cruz) and when the friend gets drunk, Cesar takes Sofia home and spends the night, though just talking.  Next morning, as he's leaving, he finds Nuria waiting for him and is taunted into accepting a ride home.  On the way she swerves off the road, a murder/suicide attempt that kills her and leaves Cesar horribly disfigured.  Much of the remainder of the story is told in flashbacks, with Cesar in the psychiatric ward of a prison--wearing a mask that looks somewhat like his original face, but inhuman and immobile--trying to piece together what has happened since, including the events that have ended with him being held for the murder of Sofia, with whom he eventually became lovers, though obviously ill-fated.

As Cesar and an immensely patient psychiatrist delve back into the past, various elements like  cryogenics, reconstructive surgery, a charismatic TV personality, the mysterious reappearance of Nuria, and a possible scheme by a group of investors with whom Cesar shares business interests all enter into the tangled plot.  Some of this is confusing and the behavior of several characters, especially Sofia, is unbelievable as its happening, but by the end these inconsistencies have been cleared up, if not the entirety of the plot, which is left fairly open-ended.

Though the tale is quite convoluted it's never needlessly so.  The whole is done with great vigor and a sure-handedness that carries the film through its most dubious moments.  The only real problem is structural : Cesar is such a flaming anus that the viewer quite enjoys seeing him get his comeuppance, rather than feeling much empathy.  This makes for a somewhat sadistic, but still enjoyable, experience as he's taught some brutal lessons about the limits of wealth and physical beauty.  One might prefer an ending that made a more definitive statement about what's come before, but the intentional ambiguity allows for personal conjecture.  That may be a bit maddening but its not necessarily a bad thing.

(Reviewed:06-Aug-02)

Grade: (B+)

Websites:

See also:

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Alejandro Amenábar (Imdb)
    -INFO : Abre los ojos (1997) (Imdb.com)
    -INFO : Open Your Eyes (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -INFO : The Others (2001) (Imdb.com)
    -OFFICIAL FILM SITE : The Others
    -INTERVIEW : with Alejandro Amenábar : The Others (Interviewed by Jane Crowther, 30th October 2001, BBCi)
    -PROFILE : 'The Others': The House Is Dark, and the Children Are Afraid (ANTHONY MINGHELLA, August 12, 2001, NY Times)
    -PROFILE : Amenábar steps out of the shadows (Nancy Ayala, 08/09/2001, USA TODAY)
    -PROFILE : Seeking a Fright to the Finish : "The Others" director has a penchant for surprise endings. (ERNESTO LECHNER, August 8, 2001, The LA Times)
    -ESSAY : Never Say Never Again  (Jason Wood, 30th October 2001, BBCi)
    -ARCHIVES : Alejandro Amenabar (Entertainment Weekly)
    -ARCHIVES : "Alejandro Amenabar" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Alejandro Amenabar" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW : of Tesis (Leora Lev, Fall 2000, Film Quarterly)
    -REVIEWS : of Open Your Eyes (Movie Review Query Engine)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (James Berardinelli)
    -REVIEW : of Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (James Bowman)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (US Catholic Bishops)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (LAWRENCE VAN GELDER, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (JEFF FARANCE, Daytona Beach News Journal)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Peter Stack, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Jamie Russell, BBCi)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Alexander Walker, This is London)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (BRUCE KIRKLAND, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (The Wolf, Inside Out)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Roy Rodenstein, The Tech)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Gary Dauphin, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (David Grove, Film Threat)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (David Parkinson, Empire Online)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Andrew McIntosh, Film Written)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Arthur Lazere, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (JASON ANDERSON, Eye Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Ed Gonzalez, Slant)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Richard von Busack, MetroActive)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (ANDY KLEIN, New Times LA)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Brent Simon, Entertainment Today)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Ian Waldron-Mantgani, UK Critics)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (SplicedWire)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (Thomas Michael Goff, Daily Reviews)
    -REVIEW : of Open Your Eyes (DAVID PERRY, Xiibaro)
    -REVIEWS : of The Others (Movie Review Query Engine)
    -REVIEWS : of The Others (Metacritic)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Jeffrey Overstreet, Christianity Today)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Michael Elliott, Movie Parables)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Lindy Beam, Focus on the Family)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Steven D. Greydanus, Decent Films)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Betty Hamm, Hollywood Jesus)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (US Catholic Bishops)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (A. O. SCOTT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Rita Kempley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Steven Rea, Philadelphia inquirer)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Mike Clark, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Jeffrey M. Anderson, SF Examiner)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Wesley Morris, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (KENNETH TURAN, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Neil Norman, This is London)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (LOUIS B. HOBSON, Calgary Sun)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (BRUCE KIRKLAND, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Philip French, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Philip Kerr, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (David Edelstein, Slate)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Neil Smith, BBCi)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Michæl Dequina, Film Threat)
    -REVIEW : of The Others  (Ed Gonzalez, Slant)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (John Nesbit, Culture Dose)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Ed Kelleher, FilmJournal International
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Gary Mairs, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Amy Taubin, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (LUKE Y. THOMPSON, New Times LA)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (DAVID PERRY, Xiibaro)
    -REVIEW : of The Others (Andrew Chan, Film Written)

VANILLA SKY :
    -REVIEW : of Vanilla Sky (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)
    -REVIEW : of Vanilla Sky (Plugged In : Focus on the Family)
    -REVIEW : of Vanilla Sky (Rex Reed, NY Observer)

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