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The Plague

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A stunning and unsentimental adaptation of Albert Camus’ novel of a city under siege, The Plague (1993, LIVE, unrated, $92.98) didn’t receive a theatrical release, which seems inexplicable given the story’s current relevance. In a string of potent images,director Luis Puenzo (The Official Story) captures the psychology and panic of an epidemic in a South American city called Oran (the real Oran is in Algeria). While the city is shut down and sealed off, a doctor (William Hurt) tries to cope with his own fear and grief as well as that of those around him. Jean-Marc Barr and Sandrine Bonnaire play French TV newspeople trapped in Oran, and Raul Julia is memorably slimy as an exploiter of the plague. But it is Robert Duvall who is truly heartbreaking, in a brief role as a bureaucrat with a poignant poetic streak in him. Seldom has the true democracy of an epidemic—in which everyone is equal—been rendered as effectively or as shockingly. A