- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

It’s understandable that filmmakers would be tempted to invent variations on the suspense format perfected by Alfred Hitchcock more than 50 years ago in “Rear Window.”

A disarming and deceptively “static” domestic setting was transformed into a potential deathtrap as a consequence of idle observation and amateur sleuthing.

But maybe “Rear Window” defies imitation.

A clever variation certainly eludes Marcos Bernstein, director and co-writer of the Brazilian import “The Other Side of the Street,” opening exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

The film’s protagonist is a divorced pensioner and grandmother named Regina, played by Fernanda Montenegro, the character actress who won an Academy Award nomination in an earlier Bernstein scenario, “Central Station.” Regina believes she has observed something suspicious in the large apartment house across from her own in the Copacabana district of Rio de Janeiro.

Suspicion happens to be her avocation: Regina snoops for the police as part of a neighborhood watch group. We’re even led to believe that she’s the virtuoso of this “senior service.” An early sequence depicts her dolling up in order to be on the scene of a bust at a disco, which she fingers as a front for child prostitution.

Regina appears to jump to prejudicial conclusions when she observes a man administer an injection to a woman, presumably his wife, while scanning streetfront apartment windows with her binoculars. This tip turns the ace into a liability with her police contact, Alcides (Luis Carlos Persy), because the suspect is a respected judge named Camargo (Raul Cortez), evidently retired and obliged to care for a terminally ill spouse who did indeed expire on the very night of Regina’s peeping.

The doleful, confusing circumstances aren’t explained to the heroine or us in a timely manner. Later, it’s difficult to feel that Mr. Bernstein’s token explanation has cleared up the confusion.

This hitch is magnified by a maladroit plot realignment: Regina shadows the widowed Camargo to prove him a killer but then regrets her suspicions when they become acquainted. Cordiality ripens into romance, forcing you to conclude that Mr. Bernstein has a very odd, unsatisfying way of playing matchmaker for divorcees and widowers.

*1/2

TITLE: “The Other Side of the Street”

RATING: No MPAA rating (Adult subject matter, with allusions to sex, prostitution and street crime; fleeting profanity)

CREDITS: Directed by Marcos Bernstein. Screenplay by Mr. Bernstein and Melanie Dimantas. Cinematography by Toca Seabra. Production design by Bia Junqueira. Costume design by Cristina Kangussu. Music by Guilherme Bernstein Seixas. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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