The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Collection

It’s handsome, all right, packaged in a neat slipcover that would look classy on any collector’s shelf. It comes with the best literary pedigree. But is The Gabriel García Márquez Collection, six films with screenplays by the Colombian Nobel Prize winner from his fiction, worth $380? The answer depends on how big a fan you are of Marquez’s ”magical realism,” because qualitatively these films are all over the map.

The best is Miracle in Rome, a fable of a father who suddenly and inexplicably loses his young daughter and finds a miraculous surprise when her coffin is exhumed 12 years later. Frank Ramirez does a beautiful job as the amazed parent, and the balance of whimsy, sadness, and absurdity lives up to the film’s eerie epigraph: ”Love makes death brief.”

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is about a miracle too, but the pointed ironies of the first film become a chaotic orgy of surrealist lunacy in the second. The movie stuns with its stylistic excess, but it stands as a monument of sorts to the author’s belief in the unending, brutish folly of humankind.

And to his belief that folly is always redeemed by love. (The films, coproduced by Spanish TV, were at one time packaged under the heading Amores Dificiles, ”Difficult Loves.”) All these movies are grounded by this theme, whether it’s transplanted to hip Barcelona (I’m the One You’re Looking For), 1913 Cuba (Letters From the Park), 19th-century Brazil (The Fable of the Beautiful Pigeon Fancier), or a Mexican seaside vacation house (The Summer of Miss Forbes). Still, the variety is hardly enough to redeem the whole collection. Best bet: Rent a few, buy the paperbacks. B-

The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Collection
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