Writer-director Jose Antonio Zorrilla's THE WINTER IN LISBON never really gets off the ground. The filmmaker ends up with an atmospheric assemblage of long, drawn out scenes made worse with feeble dialogue and unnecessary characters.
Jim (Christian Vadim) is a jazz pianist who plays in a well-known summer resort club called "Lady Bird." This particular summer a legendary horn player, Bill Swann (Dizzy Gillespie), is headlining the club, and Jim is his talented pianist. It isn't long before Lucrecia (Helene De St. Pere) walks
into Jim's life. She is a beautiful yet mysterious blonde--the unhappy wife of a ruthless gangster. When their eyes meet, they know they must have each other, and she returns to the club late that night to begin the affair. As the summer progresses, Jim falls in love with her all the while knowing
that some sinister plot is going on.
Lucrecia's husband, Malcolm (Fernando Guillen), and his cohorts, Ramires (Carlos Wallenstein) and Morton (Michel Duperial), are trafficking in arms for their master plan to overthrow the democratic government of Portugal. The summer romance ends quickly when Ramires's bodyguard is killed, and the
criminal crew flee San Sebastian. Lucrecia says goodbye to Jim and is gone. Jim finds out what happened and is determined to find her again. He travels to Lisbon and finds himself in the middle of strange events. The arms deal is discovered, various shady characters end up dead and Bill Swann
reunites with his favorite piano player and then dies in his arms. After a shoot-out with the last remaining bad guy, Jim and Lucrecia board a boat and sail away into the sunset.
When a director commits to making a movie, particularly a thriller, he must be aware of pacing. Fifteen minutes into THE WINTER IN LISBON the viewer is already fatigued, and only two or three scenes have played up to this point. The film has a wacky plot involving international intrigue and jazz
music that is hard to fathom. Zorrilla tries valiantly to put all of these absurd parts together but is himself worn down in the process. The last half hour seems to go on forever.
As a writer, Zorrilla had an interesting idea about the affair between a loner pianist and a mysterious woman, but this too gets washed out by the big picture. The dialogue wavers between passable and silly, as in this remark from Lucrecia to Jim: "You'll always be a musician. I'm only a subtext."
In the end, the story leaves too many unanswered questions, but even if the questions had been answered the film probably wouldn't be much better. The cast, particularly Vadim, try their best in a wasted effort. Gillespie plays beautiful music, but the scenes which really require him to act are a
bit much for this fine musician. He does have one telling scene about the pain of racism, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the movie. A handful of secondary characters are in the way and only confuse the plot further.
THE WINTER IN LISBON probably would have made a better film if the screenplay had been pared down to focus on the love triangle aspect. Turning the tale into a story of espionage was a remarkably bad idea. (Violence, nudity.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: NR
- Review: Writer-director Jose Antonio Zorrilla's THE WINTER IN LISBON never really gets off the ground. The filmmaker ends up with an atmospheric assemblage of long, drawn out scenes made worse with feeble dialogue and unnecessary characters. Jim (Christian Vadim)… (more)