Abbe Prevost's novel Manon Lescaut has been adapted by several filmmakers, including silent movies made in 1914 (US) and 1916 (Germany) as well as 1950 and 1968 French renditions. This contemporary Venezuelan version emphasizes the story's soap opera elements but provides none of the
passion inherent in the events. Mallarino is a seminary student who meets the beautiful Alejandra along the road and is instantly attracted to her. He learns that she is on her way to a convent where she is being sent by her parents as punishment for a past affair. These plans are quickly altered
when Mallarino slips her a note imploring her to run off with him. Using the cash his wealthy father has provided for his studies, Mallarino and his love hole up in a posh hotel suite. They live an extravagant life until their funds begin to run out. Mallarino writes a letter to his father
explaining where he is and that he loves Alejandra, but he cannot bring himself to mail it. Alejandra, who is growing bored with Mallarino, furtively posts the letter. The seminarian's relatives kidnap him from the hotel, and Alejandra then takes up with Camacho, a wealthy oilman. He showers her
with jewels, while Mallarino is sent back to the seminary. Eventually Alejandra has a change of heart. She finds Mallarino, and again they run off, this time to a seaside house owned by Alejandra's aunt. Alejandra's roguish brother Landa arrives and attempts to introduce the pair to prostitution.
When Camacho reenters the picture, Alejandra claims to still love him. She and Landa run off with him, but Mallarino finds them at Camacho's posh digs. Masquerading as Alejandra's brother, Mallarino is allowed to stay as well. The trio soon take flight again, deciding to head north to Miami. They
take refuge in a brothel run by Landa's old girl friend, Moreno, then hit the road once more. But Camacho has put his thugs on the group's trail, and Alejandra is kidnaped. Mallarino is sent back to the seminary once again, though he ultimately breaks loose to search for Alejandra. After rejoining
Landa, he finds Alejandra being held captive in an insane asylum. She is spirited out, but Camacho's men are soon back on the chase. There is a shootout, and Landa is killed. Mallarino and Alejandra manage to escape, though the girl is badly wounded. The two find a secluded area, where the doomed
girl dies in her lover's arms.
Though MANON occasionally resembles SOMETHING WILD with its twisted road plot, the film never really amounts to much. Mallarino and Alejandra are good-looking leads with little acting ability. They run through their parts without much energy, never generating the spark this turbulent romance
demands. This is MANON's greatest flaw. It's hard to believe in the central romance when the two lovers barely show any motivation for their often rash actions. Landa and Moreno are better, giving some life to their bawdy characters. Chalbaud directs in a fairly straightforward manner. A former
television director, he shows an occasional flair for visuals but doesn't provide his material with any strength. MANON was popular in its native land, however, where telenovela romances of a similar nature are regularly broadcast. That Chalbaud and Alejandra are both veterans of that medium
undoubtedly added to MANON's Venezuelan success. Released in Venezuela in 1986.
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- Released: 1986
- Rating: NR
- Review: Abbe Prevost's novel Manon Lescaut has been adapted by several filmmakers, including silent movies made in 1914 (US) and 1916 (Germany) as well as 1950 and 1968 French renditions. This contemporary Venezuelan version emphasizes the story's soap opera eleme… (more)