Showing posts with label Spanish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spanish. Show all posts

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Juan of the Dead

In early 2012, Juan of the Dead’s UK premier was held at my local art house cinema during their annual Spanish Language Film Festival. I was really annoyed that I couldn’t make the screening as I’d heard a lot of good things about the comedy-horror, the fist Cuban film I’d ever come across. Over a year later, LoveFilm sent me the DVD and I excitedly slid it into my player. Ninety-six minutes later I was a disappointed man. While Juan of the Dead has a lot of things going for it, I didn’t enjoy the broad comedy or unremarkable effects. It does however contain important political subtext which was much more to my liking.

Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) is a middle aged Cuban, used to doing nothing on a regular basis. His wife left him some time ago, taking his daughter with her to Spain. Juan’s friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) is in a similar situation but at least has his son Vladi (Andros Perugorría) for company. A strange illness begins to infect the people of the Caribbean island and those infected begin marauding through the streets, eating their friends and neighbours who in turn become infected themselves. Dismissed as dissidents, backed by America by the Cuban Government, it soon becomes apparent to Juan that no matter who or what they are, he and his friends have a battle for survival on their hands.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth has been on my list of films to watch for years and I’ve finally got around to seeing it. I’ve had no excuse as my girlfriend bought it at least two years ago and it has been sitting on my shelf gathering dust ever since. I’ve found that Pan’s Labyrinth is the sort of film that comes up in conversation with people who generally don’t watch films that aren’t in English and won numerous awards upon its release. My girlfriend is a big fan and though I enjoyed the effects and historical side to the story, I wasn’t completely won over by it.

In Fascist Spain a young girl called Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is forced to leave her home and move to the countryside where he mother’s new husband is beating into submission the remnants of the anti-Fascist rebels. The girl has an affinity for fairytales and soon meets a fairy who takes her into a labyrinth. There she meets a goat like creature called a Fawn who tells her that she is a long lost Princess and must complete three tasks in order to be united with her Royal father. The fairytale is set against the backdrop of a vicious new regime made real by Ofelia’s new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez).

Monday, 17 September 2012

Amores Perros

The first film in Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘death’ trilogy (followed by 21 Grams and Babel) is a sombre and at times difficult to watch drama set in Mexico City around the themes of class, loyalty and cruelty. The film is constructed via three interlocking stories which come together by means of a car crash. The film is non-linear and dips from one story to the next, slowly building up a picture as to how and where each character fits into the wider story.

Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) uses his brother’s dog to make money in organised dog fights and is in love with his brother’s pregnant wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche). One day he and a friend are being chased by crooks when he crashes his car into another, being driven by the model and actress Valeria (Goya Toledo) who is in the midst of an affair with Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero), a married magazine publisher. At the scene of the crash is a down and out, vagrant man ‘El Chivo’ (Emilio Echevarria) who pushes a scrap metal cart around but hides a deeply hidden and cheerless past. The three strands only come together for the car crash scene, colliding like three marbles before being spun into differing trajectories. The film had me gripped from start to finish but left me wanting more from at least two of the three strands.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Room in Rome

WARNING : Adult Content

Room in Rome is a Spanish (albeit with English dialogue) erotic/romantic drama starring Elena Anaya and Natasha Yarovenko. Anaya plays Alba who meets and seduces Natasha (Yarovenko) in a club in Rome and persuades her to accompany her back to her hotel room. Despite protesting that she is not gay, Natasha agrees. What follows is a whirlwind affair which takes place over the course of a single night, within the walls of Alba’s hotel room.

While at its heart the film has a very good romantic story, this takes a back seat because of the characters sex and the amount of sex within the film. Although loosely based on a Chilean film about a mixed sex couple, Room in Rome’s protagonists are both female and that brings a whole new audience to the film. I think people who wanted porn would feel disappointed and people who wanted a good romantic drama would feel equally as disappointed. The film unfortunately falls between the two. Both actresses spend almost the entire film naked. While I didn’t mind this on an aesthetic level (they are both incredibly beautiful) it is slightly off-putting. There are whole swathes of the film in which the characters have sex but while this is titillating to watch, the story itself suffers. The last third of the film deals with what will happen in the morning; will they go back to their separate lives? Could they be together? Do they want to? By the time it gets interesting you have already sat through 90 minutes of soft core lesbian porn interspersed with poignant romance by which time you have forgotten about the plot.

It isn't easy to find suitable photos of this film!

Much of the dialogue feels fake and forced. Both the actresses and the director are working in their second or third language and I think that being a Spanish film, it may have worked better in Spanish with the Russian character speaking Spanish. This wouldn’t be a stretch. As it is she speaks Russian, English and Italian during the film. Why not try Russian, Italian and Spanish? Both actresses are fine in their roles. They play the emotional scenes well and the sex scenes ‘convincingly’. If I had to pick then I’d say Anaya comes out on top (if you excuse the pun). Elena Anaya is an actress who I shall always be interested to see after she gave a wonderful performance in The Skin I Live In.

Although their relationship became interesting towards the end of the film, for the first two thirds the two women tell each other lie after lie in order to hide their true identities from one another and I found this very tiresome after a while. The film keeps the audience waiting too long to discover who the women really are, by which time they have lost interest.

An example of the beautiful cinematography

I really feel that the film would have been improved had it not contained so much explicit sex. While these scenes are great for showing the passion and heat between the two women, they detract from the story as a whole. The most intense scenes in the film aren’t those which are overtly sexual in tone. The film is at its best when the two are talking quietly, maybe stroking a thigh or back or looking into each others souls.

The ending is fairly ambiguous and for once I actually wished for a ‘Hollywood Ending’. I suppose this shows how invested in the love story I was and how well the film showed the passion and love between the characters.  It also has to be said that as well as the beautiful naked women, the film also has some beautiful cinematography but in the end the sex got in the way of the story.


Friday, 24 February 2012

The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas doing his Cary Grant impression

The Skin I Live In, the winner of the Best film not in the English Language at this years BAFTA awards is the latest dark and twisted thriller from critically acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. Antonio Banderas plays plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard who has successfully created skin which cannot burn. Although claiming to have conducted his experiments on mice, it is revealed that he has in fact been experimenting on a woman who is locked in his house. I don’t want to give much more away that that but the film deals with loss, betrayal, revenge and madness in a thrilling two hours that will leave you saying ‘but… huh?’

Banderas is charismatic and sinister and pulls off the role of a lonely, slightly unbalanced but focussed doctor well. He is joined by the ridiculously beautiful Elena Anaya who plays her difficult role with conviction. She can be seen in another strong, although sexually explicit role here. The film features a wonderful score from Alberto Iglesias which helps to create a sense of entrapment and suspense. The setting and internal sets are beautiful and contrasting. One the outside you have the rugged, unkempt city of Toledo and its surroundings whereas on the inside everything is ordered and clinical. This helps to create the feeling of separation from the inside and outside.


It is difficult to talk about one of my problems with the film without giving away any major spoilers but while I was satisfied with the physical transformation, I felt the film in no way explained the vocal transformation. This is only a small issue however and on the whole the film is full of intrigue and suspense and is extremely twisted and bizarre.