Thursday, 31 January 2013

Random Viewing: Catch-Up Edition, part 2

In this edition, two films that received 'honourable mentions' in my end of year post.
     Extraterrestre / Extraterrestrial (Nacho Vigalondo, 2012) was mentioned in the first post on this blog almost two years ago - it seems to have taken an absolute age for me to manage to see it (I watched it on Filmin and then bought the DVD, which has optional subtitles, from Spain). It's quite different to Los cronocrímenes / Timecrimes (Nacho Vigalondo, 2007) - that's not a negative, just a warning if you were expecting something in a similar vein as it threw me a bit on first viewing (it wasn't an issue with the second viewing). Extraterrestre is a warmhearted comedy, and despite the title is actually a romcom with a possible alien invasion as a backdrop, rather than an alien invasion film with a romantic subplot. Julio (Julián Villagrán) wakes up in Julia's (Michelle Jenner) apartment (and bed), unable to remember much of the night before. As they go through an awkward morning-after conversation that sees Julia not-all-that-subtly trying to get Julio out of her apartment they realise that all lines of modern communication are down and no-one is on the street outside. And then they look up at the sky....  Deciding to stay in the apartment, they are soon joined by Julia's stalkerish neighbour, Ángel (Carlos Areces) (staring daggers at interloper Julio), and Julia's boyfriend, Carlos (Raúl Cimas) (friendly towards Julio and keen to drop into survivalist mode to take on the invaders). This sets up two tensions: the slightly more serious (although occasionally outlandish) attempts by Julia to keep Carlos in the dark as the attraction between her and Julio becomes more palpable; and the more comedic attempts to keep Ángel quiet after Julio inadvertently spills the beans to him (the exchange of looks between Jenner, Villagrán, and Areces across the dinner table in the aftermath of the revelation is a masterclass in silent comedy). It is ultimately a very sweet-natured film, the cast are all excellent (at both heartache and slapstick), and I'm now looking forward to Open Windows (Nacho Vigalondo, forthcoming). The tennis balls? You'll have to watch the film.
    Lobos de Arga (Juan Martínez Moreno, 2012) [the film has been given a UK DVD release with the title Attack of the Werewolves] is a horror-comedy with Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004) style humour and gore, but with werewolves instead of zombies, and a very personable little dog. Tomás (Gorka Otxoa) is a young writer invited to a village connected to his family to receive an award. Or at least that's what they told him. In reality, as the youngest descendant of the Mariño family, the villagers think that by sacrificing him they can end a century-long Gypsy curse and rid the village of the deadly wolfman. Tomás has only his dog, his childhood friend (Carlos Areces, again), his literary agent (Secun de la Rosa), and his grandmother (Mabel Rivera) to help him -as the title suggests, more than one werewolf is soon at play and mayhem ensues. Again, this is a very sweet-natured and funny film with an excellent cast and well-written characters. I will buy the DVD at some point as I'm sure that some of the jokes passed me by (I watched it on Filmin without subs - although it would appear that sheep-shagging jokes in films with a rural setting are pretty much universal).
Both films are recommended.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Random Viewing: Catch-Up Edition, part 1

   My posting will still be irregular in the coming months but I thought that I'd better attempt to do some sort of catch-up with the films I watched towards the end of the year - as De tu ventana a la mía and Diamond Flash were in my end-of-year top 5, they will get standalone posts at some point in the future, but the others will appear in Random Viewing posts.
    So, to the films. El Sur / The South (Víctor Erice, 1983) was the film that I hit a bit of a stumbling block with back in October. Sometimes I find myself face-to-face with a classic but with very little to say. As with Erice's El espíritu de la colmena / The Spirit of the Beehive, the film focuses on the POV of a child, in this case Estrella (played by Sonsoles Aranguren as a child, and future-director Iciar Bollaín as a teenager). Estrella is looking back on the events of her childhood (she narrates from the position of adulthood), specifically her relationship with her father (Omero Antonutti), so we get both a sense of how she saw things at the time and also how she views them with the benefit of hindsight - although it is also key that she admits early on in the narration to invention; what we are seeing is a mixture of memory and story-telling. But there are parts of her father's story that she doesn't know about / understand, and which are connected to his life (prior to her birth) in the South and a woman by the name of Irene Rios (Aurore Clément). I will point you in the direction of an article by Jo Evans (HT @drsolas on twitter), as I'm still quite stumped for words. The film is somewhat notorious in Spain because of the controversy over the ending - it was originally intended to be a three-part drama for TV but ended up as a 94 minute film - the plug was pulled by the producer, Elías Querejeta, part way through filming with (according to Erice) the understanding that the film would be 'completed' later (although the events surrounding the interruption of filming are still disputed -see below). As it was, when the 'first part' was released it was hailed as a masterpiece and filming never resumed - to this day, Erice insists that the film is only half finished. I think that the film 'works' at its current length, but it also ends at a point in the story where new narrative avenues are opening up (Estrella is about to travel to the South to find out more about her father). It is beautifully photographed by José Luis Alcaine - like a painting come to life in some of the interior scenes. The 2012 Spanish edition on DVD (and presumably on the blu-ray as well) comes with optional English subtitles and is available from Spanish sites (see the links in the right-hand sidebar) for around 7€ (I'm pointing this out because people are selling them for £20 on Amazon UK, which is quite a mark up).
   The controversy surrounding the making of El Sur brings me to the next film, the documentary El Productor / The Producer (Fernando Méndez-Leite, 2007), about the career of Elías Querejeta, one of Spain's most prolific producers and a key figure in the history of Spanish cinema. I had actually seen this before but watched it again to refresh my memory about what was said about El Sur (nothing clear-cut, as it turns out -the talking heads interviewed give a variety of accounts). Querejeta has worked through several different eras, including Francoism and state censorship (of the game of wits he played with the censors, Querejeta characterises his strategy as manipulation rather than capitulation - he usually cleverly got his way) and Agustín Almodóvar suggests that Querejeta's continued success and enduring reputation as someone with an eye for talent is down to his ability to adapt with social change and keep in step with the times. The documentary covers his career to date but focuses mainly on his collaborations in the 1960s and 1970s with Erice (various anecdotes about the making of El espíritu de la colmena) and Carlos Saura (the latter parted company with Querejeta around the time of Carmen (1983), but only because they were wanting to go in different directions and not because of a falling out (a rare case of 'artistic differences' being just that) - they are about to work together again). But also it also looks at the idea that there is 'the Querejeta stamp' on projects he produces, as he is very much a hands-on collaborator - there are varying accounts from the many directors interviewed as to just how they viewed that 'collaboration'. I will probably be revisiting the documentary again as I am going to have some sort of 'project' surrounding Saura's films and there's also this book on Querejeta's films, which looks interesting. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Ten Spanish Films Due to Arrive in 2013

   Truth be told, I can't say for certain that all of these ten films will be released in Spain in 2013 - at least two of them have yet to go into production, and the Spanish film industry is currently more than a little precarious due to Spain's uncertain economic state.
    In the December issue of Academia, the official magazine of the Spanish Film Academy [Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España], they highlighted the impact of the Spanish government's decision to disband the existing funding structures without putting anything in their place: of the 51 films that had been announced in January 2012, only 26 had actually been made by the end of the year. Another decision by the government will also be making an impact: in September the tax on 'entertainment' (which includes cinema tickets) jumped from 8% to 21% overnight (an increase that cinemas are unable to absorb, and so ticket prices are going up). The film industry (and theatre, museum, and arts bodies generally) has been arguing that 'culture' should be protected and is petitioning for the tax to go down to 10%, but in the last quarter of 2012 admissions were already reported to be down on the same period from last year - the year end box office statistics will be even more contentious than usual (early reports suggest that Spanish cinema has managed to increase its market share, but that admissions are down overall).
   So these are worrying times for Spanish cinema, but the films / projects listed below point to a rich variety of work still being made - and on a more positive note, the January 2013 issue of Academia lists a fresh slate of films going into production in 2013. As with the previous post, if a film does not yet have an official English language title, I've put a translation of the Spanish title in square brackets.

Ayer no termina nunca / [Yesterday Never Ends] (dir. Isabel Coixet)
Cast: Javier Cámara, Candela Peña.
Coixet is being deliberately secretive about the plot (Peña has said that it's the first time she has had to sign a confidentiality agreement for a film), so all I really know is that it is set in 2017 and revolves around a breakdown in the relationship between the characters played by Cámara and Peña. [no images as yet].

Caníbal / [Cannibal] (dir. Manuel Martín Cuenca)
Cast: Antonio de la Torre.
Tagline: Love is insatiable. De la Torre plays Carlos, a tailor of good standing in Granada, whose only passions are working and eating - but he's not exactly conventional: he's a cannibal. One day he encounters the twin sister of a woman he has already devoured... The project has been described as a meeting of Hitchcock and Buñuel, which is an ambitious claim but La mitad de Óscar (Manuel Martín Cuenca, 2011) was in my 2011 top 5 (it also featured De la Torre, but only in a small role) so I'm prepared to be impressed. 

Guernica, 33 días / Guernica, 33 Days (dir. Carlos Saura)
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bárbara Goenaga
The story of Picasso's (Banderas) iconic painting, Guernica, and his love affair with photographer Dora Maar (Paltrow). This was one of the films that Academia says was delayed due to the financial problems of the film industry but it does now look set to go into production this year and will reunite Saura with producer Elías Querejeta (who produced his films in the 1960s and 1970s). 

La gran familia española / My Family and Other Hooligans (dir. Daniel Sánchez Arévalo)
Cast: Quim Gutiérrez, Antonio de la Torre, Miquel Fernández, Roberto Álamo, Patrick Criado, Verónica Echegui, Alicia Rubio.
Comedy. A family of five brothers come together for the wedding of the youngest, which unfortunately happens to coincide with Spain reaching the World Cup final. Sánchez Arévalo's often have family relationships at their core -expect tears and a lot of laughter- and here most of his de-facto repertory company / film family are reunited again (minus Raúl Arévalo, who was working with Almodóvar). The film has a Youtube channel, so a trailer will probably appear there soon. Due for release in Spain in September.

Las brujas de Zugarramurdi / Witching and Bitching (dir. Álex de la Iglesia)
Cast: Carmen Maura, Carolina Bang, Terele Pavez, Mario Casas, Hugo Silva.
Comedy. Two thieves (Casas and Silva) stage a robbery and make a run for France with two policemen (Pepón Nieto and Secun de la Rosa) in hot pursuit. Before they reach the border they cut through a forest in Zugarramurdi and find themselves placed under a curse by local witches (Maura, Bang, and Pavez).... Álex de la Iglesia has been tweeting photos from the set (@alexdelaiglesia) and it looks like we're back to another gallery of grotesques after the relative normality of La chispa de la vida.

Los amantes pasajeros / I'm So Excited! (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
Cast: Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos Areces, Cecilia Roth, Jose María Yazpik, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Lola Dueñas, Guillermo Toledo and cameos by Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, and Paz Vega.
Comedy. Passengers and crew face a life-threatening situation on a flight to Mexico City. Candid confessions and musical interludes (the teaser trailer sees Cámara, Arévalo and Areces dancing in formation to the Pointer Sisters) help them keep fear of death at bay. A return to the kind of comedy Almodóvar was known for in the 1980s, the film is released in Spain in March and should be out in the UK in May. 

Los últimos días / [The Last Days] (dir. Álex & David Pastor)
Cast: Quim Gutiérrez, Jose Coronado, Marta Etura. 
Thriller. The film takes place six weeks after 'The Panic' wherein humans suddenly became agoraphobic and are now unable to go in the open air. As nature reclaims the city, Marc (Gutiérrez) attempts to travel across Barcelona to find his girlfriend (Etura). The trailer looks good.  

Murieron por encima de sus posibilidades /  [They Died Beyond Their Means] (dir. Isaki Lacuesta)
Cast: Albert Plà, Jordi Vilches, Iván Telefunken, Raúl Arévalo, Emma Suárez, Sergi López [imdb also lists Eduard Fernández, Ariadna Gil and Jose Coronado although I haven't seen them mentioned in Spanish reports].
According the writer-director, this will be a black comedy in the style of The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955). Five people damaged by the economic crisis meet by chance in a psychiatrist's waiting room and decide to form a plan to save Spain from financial ruin: to kidnap the director of the Central Bank (Josep Maria Pou). The film uses a flashback structure to show the backstory of each of the five protagonists. The cast list is intriguing and the financial crisis could do with some humour. [no images as yet].

Presentimientos / Premonitions (dir. Santiago Tabernero)
Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Marta Etura, Alfonso Bassave, Irene Escolar.
Thriller. Co-written by Noriega, this sees he and Etura as married couple Félix and Julia, on holiday to patch up their differences. On the night of their arrival they realise that they've forgotten their baby's food - Julia heads out to buy some but on her return becomes involved in an accident and then cannot find the apartment they are renting...Meanwhile Félix receives a phone call telling him that his wife is in a coma. Noriega is always on top form in thrillers and I'm interested to see what kind of writer he is. [no images as yet].

Tesis sobre un homicidio / [Thesis on a Homicide] (dir. Hernán Goldfrid) 
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Alberto Ammann.
Thriller. Argentina-Spain co-production. A law professor (Darín) comes to suspect that one of his best students (Ammann) has committed murder, and got away with it. But as he starts to conduct his own investigation, the case becomes ever more personal and he finds himself heading into a dark place...  It has Ricardo Darín, and thrillers are my favourite genre - so count me in. Trailer

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Los Goya 2013: nominations

   The nominations for Los premios Goya (The Goya Awards) 2013 were announced earlier today, with four films out in front in terms of total nominations - Blancanieves (18), Grupo 7 (16), Lo imposible [The Impossible] (14), and El artista y la modelo (13). The candidates in the main categories are as follows:

Best Film:
El artista y la modelo
Grupo 7
Lo imposible

Best Director:
Pablo Berger - Blancanieves
Fernando Trueba - El artista y la modelo
Alberto Rodríguez - Grupo 7
Juan Antonio Bayona - Lo imposible

Best New Director:
Paco León - Carmina o revienta
Oriol Paulo - El cuerpo
Isabel de Ocampo - Evelyn
Enrique Gato - Las aventuras de Tadeo Jones

Best Original Screenplay:
Pablo Berger - Blancanieves
Fernando Trueba, Jean-Claude Carrière - El artista y la modelo
Rafael Cobos, Alberto Rodríguez - Grupo 7
Sergio G. Sánchez - Lo imposible

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Sergio G. Sánchez - Fin
Javier Guillón, Jorge Arenillas - Invasor
Javier Barreira, Gorka Magallón, Ignacio del Moral, Jordi Gasull, Neil Landau - Las aventuras de Tadeo Jones
Ramón Salazar - Tengo ganas de ti
Manuel Rivas - Todo es silencio

Best Actor:
Daniel Giménez Cacho - Blancanieves
Jean Rochefort - El artista y la modelo
José Sacristán - El muerto y ser feliz
Antonio de la Torre - Grupo 7

Best Actress:
Maribel Verdú - Blancanieves
Aida Folch - El artista y la modelo
Naomi Watts - Lo imposible
Penélope Cruz - Venuto al mondo

Best Supporting Actor:
Josep María Pou - Blancanieves
Julián Villagrán - Grupo 7
Antonio de la Torre - Invasor
Ewan McGregor - Lo imposible

Best Supporting Actress:
Ángela Molina - Blancanieves
María León - Carmina o revienta
Chus Lampreave - El artista y la modelo
Candela Peña - Una pistola en cada mano

Best Male Newcomer:
Emilio Gavira - Blancanieves
Álex Monner - Els nens salvatges
Joaquín Núñez - Grupo 7
Tom Holland - Lo imposible

Best Female Newcomer:
Macarena García - Blancanieves
Carmina Barrios - Carmina o revienta
Cati Solivellas - Els nens salvatges
Estefanía de los Santos - Grupo 7

    I can't offer much of an opinion because, as you can see from posts below, a lot of these films are ones that I want to catch up with. Last year, despite a clear number of frontrunners, the awards were pretty evenly divided up and I think the same could happen this year, although Blancanieves could have the edge. But I'm glad that Carmina o revienta has got some recognition, and also for the acting nominations for Grupo 7. The nominations can be found in full here. The gala takes place on Sunday 17th February and I will no doubt post about the winners in the aftermath.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Ten Spanish films from 2012 to see in 2013:

   As I said in my ‘Top 5 of 2012’ post, I tend to see Spanish films a year or so after their original release –here are ten from 2012 that I hope to fix my eyes on in 2013.
[If there is no official English language title, I’ve put a translation in square brackets]

Blancanieves / Snow White
Director: Pablo Berger
Cast: Maribel Verdú, Macarena García, Sofia Oria, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Pere Ponce, José María Pou, Inma Cuesta, Ángela Molina.
This appeared on my list of films to see in 2012, but it hasn’t reached DVD yet so I’m still waiting. It is representing Spain at the Oscars in 2013 and I’m hoping that if it makes the shortlist then it might get a theatrical release in the UK.

El artista y la modelo / The Artist and the Model
Director: Fernando Trueba
Cast: Jean Rochefort, Aida Folch, Claudia Cardinale.
This seemed to get mixed reviews in Spain but the black and white cinematography looks sumptuous in the trailer and Trueba’s name is always a mark of quality for me.

El cuerpo / The Body
Director: Oriol Paulo
Cast: Jose Coronado, Hugo Silva, Belén Rueda, Aura Garrido.
The directorial debut of one of the writers of Los ojos de Julia / Julia’s Eyes (Guillem Morales, 2010). I haven’t read all that much about it (it was only released in early December) but it sounds intriguing – the body of a rich woman (Rueda) disappears from the morgue before the autopsy can take place. How did she die? A detective (Coronado) investigates both the disappearance and the events leading up to her death. 

El muerto y ser feliz / The Dead Man and Being Happy
Director: Javier Rebollo
Cast: José Sacristán, Roxana Blanco.
Buenos Aires. Sacristán plays a hired assassin, a Spaniard who has spent half of his life in Argentina. When he discovers that he is dying, he absconds from the hospital with a supply of morphine and heads out on the road with no particular destination in mind…
Rebollo’s previous film, La mujer sin piano / Woman without Piano (2009), was very distinctive, so I’m interested to see where he has gone next and Sacristán has been picking up awards for his performance in this black comedy.

El mundo es nuestro / [The World is Ours]
Director: Alfonso Sánchez
Cast: Alfonso Sánchez, Alberto López, Olga Martínez, Pepa Díaz Meca, Antonia Gómez.
I don’t know much about this one – I was aware of it appearing on Filmin with some fanfare and its reputation as something of an online phenomenon. But it has been appearing on multiple Spanish end-of-year lists and topped the readers’ poll of Spanish films in El País – so I’d better catch up with it. 

Fin / The End
Director: Jorge Torregrossa
Cast: Maribel Verdú, Clara Lago, Daniel Grao, Antonio Garrido, Blanca Romero.
A reunion between old friends is interrupted by an incident that leaves them cut off from the outside world. As they try to reach help cracks their relationships come under pressure and the group starts to disintegrate….

Invasor / [Invader]
Director: Daniel Calparsoro
Cast: Alberto Ammann, Antonio de la Torre, Karra Elejalde, Inma Cuesta.
Thriller. A soldier (Ammann) awakes from a serious accident that took place during his time in Iraq. But as his memory returns, he realises that his memories do not tally with the official record of events…

Madrid 1987
Director: David Trueba
Cast: José Sacristán, María Valverde.
I don’t know that much about what transpires in this one –only that the trailer suggests that it is mainly a conversation between Sacristán and Valverde that takes place when their characters become locked in a bathroom together.

Sueño y silencio / Dream and Silence
Director: Jaime Rosales
Cast: Oriol Rosselló, Yolanda Galocha.
Black and White. Oriol and Yolanda live in Paris with their two daughters. While on holiday in Spain an accident leaves one child dead and Oriol with no memory of their late daughter. 

Una pistola en cada mano / A Gun in Each Hand
Director: Cesc Gay
Cast: Javier Cámara, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Jordi Mollà, Eduardo Noriega, Alberto San Juan, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Luis Tosar, Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Candela Peña, Clara Segura, Leonor Watling.
This was also on my list of forthcoming (2012) projects I wanted to see but it has only recently been released in Spain. A comedy about modern men –my main reasons for wanting to see it are Cesc Gay’s involvement and those men onscreen.

Next week there will be a post about ten new films due to arrive in 2013.