Director Bemberg can lay claim to being one of Argentina's original feminists and a persistent critic of the various military regimes which ran the country for most of the post-War period. After writing a number of highly militant screenplays in the mid 70s, she finally directed her first feature aged 58 and hasn't looked back. This has been praised as her best film to date and this may be because it's the first time she has adapted someone else's work and is consequently obliged to keep her own obsessions under a tight rein.
Not that there isn't a feminist subtext here. Set in a mythical Argentinian town in the 40s, it centres on the attempts of a snobbish widow (Brando) to prevent her daughter Charlotte (Podesta) from being acknowledged as a dwarf. In a magnificant act of psychotic despotism, she attacks her neighbours' garden gnomes and burns any book which so much as mentions dwarves to clear a sacred patch of ground for her daughter to bloom in. Charlotte is taught to play the piano and speak French, but Bemburg signals that these cultural accomplishments represent the stunting and pruning of an essential nature.
Sometimes rambling and stilted, this still manages to nail the connections between political manipulation and psycho-sexual engineering. When Charlotte is courted by an ageing rou (Mastroianni), her mother can hardly believe that his desire is genuine.
For all its faults, namely some rather hackneyed metaphors, this remains a charming and engaging tragi-comedy.