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Bleak Street 

Wednesday, Mar 9 2016
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Arturo Ripstein's Bleak Street lives up to its name, being a beautifully shot but ultimately unsatisfying exercise in miserablism. Dora (Nora Velázquez) and Adela (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) are prostitutes who work the grimy back alleys of Mexico City. They're aging out of the business — experience, it turns out, counts for very little in the street-level sex trade — but they have few other options. After hatching a plan to drug and rob twin dwarf wrestlers Little Death (Juan Francisco Longoria) and Little AK (Guillermo López), the scheme goes south when Dora and Adela accidentally kill the wrestlers. Photographed in glorious black-and-white, the texture of the Bleak Street evokes the recent (and far superior) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, while Ripstein having once been a protégé of Los Olvidados director Luis Bunuel may account for the somewhat timeless feel — give or take the occasional laptop or flat-screen television — and sympathy for its bottom-rung characters. A subplot in which Dora deals with her husband's exploring other gender options is handled far less exploitatively than it might have been otherwise. Unfortunately, Bleak Street is also very talky, often telling when showing would have been sufficient, and lacks a third act. But sometimes that's just how life is on streets that are so very bleak.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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