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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Karen Cries on the Bus

UWM hosts annual Latin American Film Series

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The protagonist, Karen, forces back tears as the city rolls by through the smudgy window of her bus at the opening of Karen Cries on the Bus. With her possessions stuffed into a single suitcase, she exits and searches for a place to stay in a shabby district far from the side of town where she has always lived.

The film by Colombian director Gabriel Rojas Vera is a realistic, closely observed study of a 30ish woman in transition from unfulfilling security to uncertain future. The room she rents is beautiful in its monastic austerity, but the surrounding apartment building is a squalid comedown from the life she has known. The communal bathroom is so filthy that Karen flushes the toilet with her foot. The film follows her for many minutes through the busy city as she seeks and fails to find work; intriguingly, we know nothing about her except that she seems educated and middle class. Karen's story finally snaps into place when she visits her mother's comfortable apartment for a hot shower. Against her mother's steadfast commitment to marriage as forever, Karen, who went to college but never pursued a profession, has left her husband, Mario, to start a new life.

Mario isn't a bad guy—just the wrong guy for Karen. Their situation is neatly outlined when, during a failed reconciliation dinner, they encounter a woman from Mario's office. When Karen mentions that her favorite play is, not surprisingly, A Doll's House, Mario admits that he “seldom reads novels” and his office friend mistakes the author for Tennessee Williams. The business jabber that follows sends Karen into catatonia. She needs a little intellectual and aesthetic stimulation.

Karen Cries on the Bus
is composed of many sly bits. Reduced to begging on the streets for “bus money” in order to eat, she is approached at a lunch counter by another woman looking for a handout. A free-spirited fellow tenant, a loose-living hairdresser, befriends Karen, but unlike the stereotypes inhabiting Hollywood, her freedom comes with a cost. Karen Cries on the Bus is as unresolved as life often seems to be.

Karen Cries on the Bus
plays 7 p.m. April 17 at the UW-Milwaukee Union Theatre as part of the 34th Annual Latin American Film Series, April 13-20. For more information, go to: www4.uwm.edu/clacs/filmseries/index.cfm.
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