In ELISA, VIDA MIA, Fernando Rey stars as Luis, a contemplative writer, now in his sixties, who years ago moved to an isolated cottage in rural Spain to escape everything he hates about modern life. He is visited by his daughter, Elisa (Geraldine Chaplin), who he had abandoned years ago when he decided to leave her mother and become a writer. As the film opens Luis is reading from a memoir he is writing, but the story he’s telling is written from the point of view of Elisa. Director Carlos Saura uses the full range of narrative possibilities in this film, including internal monologues, dreams, fantasies, wish fulfillment, and multiple view points. Sometimes Saura switches the narrative from Elisa’s point of view to her father’s internal imagining of what she’s telling him. When she tells her father the story of her husband having an affair with her best friend, Sophia, it ends in a wildly unbelievable fashion. Is this story a wish fulfillment of hers? Or was the fantasy in the mind of her father as he writes the story of her visit? The film presents a stream of consciousness narrative that allows the characters to take shape not just through their words and actions, but actually through the progression of their thoughts. Continue reading
This is a curious and little-known film from Saura’s best period. Co-scripted by Rafael Azcona, the film is virtually a two-hander about a husband and wife (Per Oscarsson and Geraldine Chaplin) discovering role playing to supplement their apparently repressed sex life and going a little bit too far. There is a shade of Virginia Woolf here, and more than a shade of the later Buñuel (who learned most of his tricks from Azcona, anyway). However, what Buñuel does with a sledge-hammer and schoolboy glee, Saura does with subtlety and bitter irony. Continue reading
While attending an international conference which seeks to reduce the incidence of the use of torture by nations around the globe, a movie director (Jose Luis Gomez) encounters a woman (Geraldine Chaplin) whom he decides to cast in a play about state torture. As events proceed, he and the woman, the wife of a dentist, become lovers. All along, however, right-wing types have been persecuting, and the whole endeavor goes sour. Continue reading
Saura’s account of Spain’s quest for Peruvian gold differs from Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God in intention and budget. Loopy Lope de Aguirre and his conquistadors sail themselves up a creek without gold or paddle, decimated by unseen assailants, hostile environs, exhausted provisions, and mad, merciless self-slaughter. Aguirre (the excellent Antonutti) is a tired 50-year-old way down the military pecking order; if voice-overs suggest he sees himself as God’s instrument, Saura portrays his murderous deeds asa product of the clashing forces of Spanish society. His attempt to demythologise this folie de grandeur within the conventions of the big budget epic (at $9 million, Spain’s most expensive film to date) excels in evoking the destructive effects of sexual jealousy, envy, greed and the Spanish obsession with death. But despite lush ‘Scope photography and the meticulous display of authentic armour and finery, the film is often oppressive, and too dependent on faces to communicate meaning, adding obscurity to something already complex and ambiguous. Not Saura’s best, perhaps, but a fascinating attempt to get to the heart of myths, men and history. Continue reading
The young but traveled Ana arrives in a manor in the countryside of Spain to work as nanny of three girls and finds a dysfunctional family: the matriarch is a sick old woman obsessed by death and having constant nervous breakdown; her son José was raised dressing girl’s clothes until his First Communion and is obsessed by military clothes and stuffs; Juan, the father of the three girls, is a pervert since his childhood that writes pornographic letters to Ana; his wife Luchy has suicidal tendencies; and the mystic and religious eremite Fernando, who was inflicted to flagellation in his childhood, lives recluse in a cave. The presence of Ana disturbs the three brothers with tragic consequences. Continue reading
A Spanish family plans a large party for the 100th birthday of Mama (Rafaela Aparicio), the irascible matriarch who keeps her squabbling brood impoverished by her refusal to sell her land to real estate developers. Ana (Geraldine Chaplain), the family’s former English governess, returns after fifteen years to find that two of the children she cared for, Natalia (Amparo Munoz) and Carlota (Angeles Torres) have grown into beautiful young women. Her Spanish husband, Antonio (Norman Briski), who was never before interested in the family is drawn into the intrigue with his attraction to Natalia. One of Mama’s sons, Fernando (Fernando Fernan Gomez) is obsessed with flying on his hang glider while pouting over his unrequited love for Ana. The other, Juan (José Vivo), the father of the three girls, had previously run off with the maid, but returns for the party, much to the displeasure of his wife, Luchy (Charo Soriano). This family drama, a continuation of Saura’s ANA AND THE WOLVES, is loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV. Here Saura depicts, via the family struggle, the old Spain of Franco caught in the conflict to reject the past and embrace modernization. Continue reading
When the idea of a film about the tango was proposed to director Carlos Saura by a producer, the director spent several months hammering out a scenario that used dance to propel the story about a dancer, Mario Suárez (Miguel Ángel Solá), injured in a recent car accident and freshly divorced, using a film about the tango to heal some deep personal wounds.
Woven into the dances-within-a-film-within-a-film are pieces evoking the tango as the social glue of Argentinian culture, as well as the music’s function during the dark years under Juan Peron, when tango music was played loud by the secret service to smother the cries of torture sessions.
Repression is more or less linked through Mario’s own need to repress his still-broiling feelings for ex-wife Laura Fuentes (Cecilia Narova) who’s a key dancer in his film, as well as emerging feelings for Elena Flores (Mía Maestro), the young dancer he casts at the behest of the production’s biggest financier, a major mafia figure. Continue reading