Books: Death in the Andes

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Weekend Entertainment Guide

This book marks the return to the high literary intensity that Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa mastered before he detoured into public life with his unsuccessful 1990 campaign for his country's presidency. It's a welcome return, says TIME's Paul Gray. What starts as a simple murder-mystery puzzle in the Andes mountains rapidly becomes an attempt to track down, through the labyrinth of fiction, experiences that defy rational explanation. "There is a spookiness about this novel, one that is hard to convey," says Gray. "But Vargas Llosa's meticulously realistic descriptions of this high, unforgiving landscape and the haunted people who perch there for the span of their lives ultimately merge into a surreal portrait of a place both specific and universal."Movies: The White BalloonJafar Panahi's sweet little tale of a small Iranian girl looking for some lost money has become the victim of an international skirmish over the U.S.'s alleged efforts to destabilize Iran. The country's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has tried to withdraw the film from consideration for the best Foreign Language Oscar. In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it would not allow a film to be squeezed out because of politics, and The White Balloon remains eligible. All of this political maneuvering distracts from what is a wonderful movie, says TIME's Richard Corliss. "This sly comedy is wonderfully open to life’s coincidences and consequences; it shows an uncondescending interest in children even as it is alert to their gamin guile. Panahi's film deserves viewers, supporters -- perhaps even a statuette."