A RECENT VETERAN (or is that victim?) of Four Rooms, Madonna continues to have movie problems. But luckily for her, the $60-million Evita, her hoped-for comeback due out this December, is being hyped by a "special 10 minute presentation" (a.k.a. overlong trailer)--an ingenious new publicity tool previously employed to sell Nixon (or, at least try to sell it). Naturally, the clip itself has been heavily promoted, having screened at Cannes in a successful bid to create advance buzz about the advance buzz. We were recently invited to view this "presentation," and, doing our part to create said buzz, can report that Evita looks positively ridiculous. Among other things, a scene of the title character's coffin being carried through the streets of Buenos Aires, accompanied by the star's warbled version of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" (what else?), would suggest a considerable tearjerking quotient. We, however, were laughing.

           Set in '40s-era Buenos Aires (and shot mostly in Budapest), the musical bio-pic features Madonna as Eva ("Evita") Duarte Peron, the illegitimate daughter of a poor farmer, who left home at a young age and became a radio performer, movie actress, wife of a volatile man, controversial feminist, powerful celebrity, and all-around charitable soul--rather like the star herself. No doubt a host of magazine features will enlighten us about the many connections between Madonna and Evita in the coming months. But for now, the film seems most intriguing as the product of writer-director Alan Parker, who turned the '60s struggle for civil rights into the story of two white men in Mississippi Burning; and an icon who's made a career on the practice of insinuating herself into the experiences of Others (see the videos for "Like a Prayer," "Vogue," and "Secret," among others).

           The idea of basing this all-singing, no-talking Evita on the 1976 "concept album" by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (rather than the pair's subsequent Broadway production) seems merely weird, but the trailer's epic-scale shots of the white Material Girl being serenaded by the Argentinian masses suggest something downright insidious. In real life, onlookers to the set carried signs that read, "Go home, Madonna." Of course, if Evita belly-flops, Madonna will still have the forthcoming project of her bambino--which, in a marketing tie-in that's brilliant even by her standards, is also due in December. (Rob Nelson)

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