Political Film Society - Tricky Life

PFS Film Review
Tricky Life (En la Puta Vida)


How does a white slavery ring work? The Uruguayan film Tricky Life (En la Puta Vida), an obvious pun in the translation from Spanish, demonstrates exactly how, using a fictional heroine Elisa (played by Mariana Santángelo) as a victim to expose a scam involving Uruguayans in Spain. The story is based on Maria Urruzola's novel The Serpent's Egg, which in turn is based on a real event. When the film begins, Elisa leaves home with her two adorable children in a huff; she can no longer tolerate her mother’s insults. She immediately calls her boss for shelter, as he promised to marry her on the following day and to supply her with funds to start a beauty shop with her friend Lulú (played by Andrea Fantoni). But her boss has just been stringing her along to satisfy his chauvinistic sexual appetite; after he finds temporary housing for Elisa and her two children, he makes more promises, but Elisa no longer believes him. Elisa and Lulú then look for a store to rent in order to set up their beauty parlor, but they lack the funds. Accordingly, they sell their bodies to raise the capital, becoming putas (prostitutes). Along comes Placido (played by Silvestre), who pretends to fall in love with Elisa. He promises that she can make oodles of money in Barcelona if she will accompany him there, including enough for a beauty parlor, with generous remittances to be sent to her two children in the short time required to amass the necessary capital, and the two are to marry to provide a father to the children. Elisa and Lulú foolishly swallow the bait and go to Spain on fake passports; although the authorities immediately recognize that the passports are bogus, they prefer to keep an eye on them in order to catch bigger fish. Upon arrival in Barcelona, both women are holed up in cheap accommodations, their passports are confiscated by their pimp, they are told where to stand in the "red light" district (on the opposite side of the street from the noisy Brazilians, that is), and all their trick money is collected as soon as they complete seven-minute blowjobs. Whenever Elisa gets restless, Placido takes her out to an expensive place or bullshits her about marriage plans. No funds are sent to her children, as promised, so they are placed in an orphanage. One day Lulú is found dead on the street. Elisa comes forward to the police, eager to sell Placido down the river. A trial occurs. Placido and other pimps are sent to jail for more than ten years each. Elisa, however, cannot return to Uruguay because her possession of a fake passport would mean immediate arrest upon arrival in Montevideo. Marcelo (played by Josep Linuesa), the policeman who hears Elisa’s story and secures safety for her before and after the trial, then arranges for her to go to Uruguay, where the Spanish Embassy collects her. It is in the interest of Spain to expose the racket involving corrupt Uruguayan officials that results in polluting the streets of Barcelona and enriching the coffers of the criminal underworld. Elisa then speaks out, becomes a heroine, Montevideo prostitutes leave the cathouse where she once plied her trade, she is reunited with her children, and soon she has funds for a beauty parlor in a very desirable location. Marcelo then comes to see her at the site where she will open her shop before his return trip to Spain, but of course that is a trip that he never makes. Titles at the end point out that the Uruguay-Spain white slavery racket still exists with new pimps and new prostitutes, so the film is quintessentially what the Political Film Society calls an exposé. Directed by Beatriz Flores Silva, the Political Film Society has nominated Tricky Life for two awards -- as best film exposé and best film on human rights for 2002. MH

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