Celestial Clockwork (Mecanicas Celestes)
Director/Producer – Fina Torres, Screenplay – Fina Torres, Yves Belaubre, Telsche Boorman, Delacorta, Chantal Pelletier & Bianca Strepponi, Photography – Ricardo Aronovich, Music – Francois Farrugia & Michel Musseau, Special Effects – Eva Ramboz, Production Design – Claire Dague & Sandi Jalumbe. Production Company – Bastille Films/Miralta Films/Mistral Films/Paradise Films/Producciones Pandorados
Ariadna Gil (Ana Mendoza), Evelyne Didi (Alcanie de Bretton), Arielle Dombasle (Celeste), Frederic Longbois (Armand), Hidegar Garcia (Toutou), Michel Debrane (Maester Grigorieff), Lluis Homar (Italo Medici), Olivier Granier (Claude)
Just about to go to the altar in Caracas, Ana Mendoza has a change of heart and packs a single suitcase and flees to Paris. There the great Maester Grigorieff is impressed with her operatic singing voice and agrees to train her for free. She learns that the famous film director Italo Medici is looking for a new voice to star in his upcoming film of `Cenerentola’ and determines to audition. However, in order to stay in France, Ana needs to obtain citizenship but does not want to marry to do so. In her determination to make the audition and find a way of staying in France, a chain of love mishaps and misunderstandings occur.
Celestial Clockwork is a rather likeable modern fairytale. It comes in the frothily fantastical style of writers like Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende that has been labeled as Magical Realism. It has an infectiously colourful style – from its pace to the sheer colour of its visual style. The plot is constantly twisting in and around itself, weaving in fantastique elements such as astrological predictions and love potions, all eventually arriving at a fairy-tale happy ending. Although this is definitely a wittily post-informed fairytale that includes lots of savvy cultural in-jokes, even sly asides about the semiologist Jacques Lacan.
Star Ariadna Gil is a wonderful find. She projects a radiant beauty and innocence that is enchanting and when she opens up and sings she is beguiling. Everyone else in the film – Evelyne Didi, Arielle Dombasle, Frederic Longbois – all give charming performances. I would not go so far as the film festival audience I was with who gave it a standing ovation at the end but it is rather charming fun. It is also a subversive film in ways that most people don’t pick up – half of the plot centres around the problems caused as the result of the heroine being an illegal immigrant, and of the four relationships portrayed in the film three of them are same-sex couples.
Venezuelan-born woman director Fina Torres went on to make her American debut with the more overtly Magical Realist Woman on Top (2000), which revisited many of the themes of Celestial Clockwork. She has sproadically returned to frothy romance with magical realist elements in the likes of Havana Eva (2010) and Liz in September (2014), although these have not had high profiles.