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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Pablo Berger|
with Javier Camara, Candela Peña, Fernando Tejero, Juan Diego, Malena Alterio, Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Tina Sainz, Ramon Barea, Nuria Gonzalez, Marivi Bilbao, Maximo Valverde
release Spain 30.Apr.03,
US 15.Apr.05, UK 24.Jun.05
Do we or don't we? Peña and Camara.
Hilariously funny, sweetly romantic and fiercely intelligent, this Spanish comedy plays with some complex ideas as it tells a wonderfully simple story. It also marks Berger as a filmmaker to reckon with! And it confirms Camara (Talk to Her) as an actor to savour.
It's 1973, and Spain is just ridding itself of Franco. The world is changing, especially for door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman Alfredo (Camara) and his wife Carmen (Peña). With no one interested in buying the books, his job is on the line; while the hopefulness in the air has sparked Carmen's desire for a baby. And when Alfredo's boss (Diego) offers him a new job, which he has no choice but to take, perhaps it'll meet both of their needs. The company is helping a Danish firm compile the World Audiovisual Encyclopaedia of Reproduction, and they need Spanish contributions ... so Alfredo and Carmen must film themselves having sex! Soon Alfredo develops Bergmanesque cinematic ambitions, Carmen becomes a adult movie star in Copenhagen, and the boss starts talking about feature films!
This is a wry, warm film taking a fond look at both the 1970s and a challenged marriage. Filmed impeccably in shades of brown, it looks and feels gloriously garish--wacky hairstyles, cheesy clothing, jarring music. And there are references-a-go-go, but never the obvious ones. (Anyone else remember Terence Hill and Bud Spencer? Blink and you'll miss this kind of hysterical aside here.) Meanwhile, Berger pokes fun at 1970s porn with a riotously funny educational movie, followed by the visiting Scandinavians speaking bad Spanish and imparting their seemingly innate filmmaking wisdom. And then there's Alfredo and Carmen themselves, beautifully played by Camara and Peña with real reticence to their new jobs and a feisty mutual lust--we feel both their mutual love and the increasing obstacles they must surmount, as it were. The tug of war between Alfredo finding his inner filmmaking skills and Carmen struggling with childlessness is both moving and extremely involving. And the supporting cast is also superb, especially the terrific Mikkelsen as Carmen's costar in the big production, which is so Bergmanesque it hurts--funny, tragic, happy, sweet, telling, cautionary. Brilliant.
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