Carlos Saura – El jardín de las delicias AKA The Garden of Delights (1970)

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Review Summary
Jose Luis Lopez Vasquez stars as a millionaire industrialist who is involved in an auto accident. When he comes to, Vasquez has completely forgotten who he is and how much money he has. His greedy relatives would love to put Vasquez away and claim his fortune. But there’s a fly in the ointment: the money is in a secret Swiss bank account, and the only one who knows (or who knew) the account number is the amnesiac Vasquez. Those familiar with the work of Spanish director Carlos Saura know for darn sure that he’s not about to go the expected route with this surefire material: Garden of Delights, is just that, a bountiful garden of the surreal, the symbolic, the illusory, and at times the hilarious. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Cría cuervos AKA Raise Ravens (1976)

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An inquisitive, cherubic girl named Ana (Ana Torrent) overhears a tender exchange between her father, a military officer named Anselmo (Héctor Alterio) and his mistress, Amelia (Mirta Miller), before the intimate moment gives way to tragedy and confusion, as Anselmo suffers a fatal heart attack. Amelia hurriedly dresses, leaving Anselmo’s body alone in the bedroom for the discovery of others, and exchanges a reluctant glance with Ana before running away to avoid a scandal. Young Ana impassively observes Anselmo’s rigid countenance before recovering a water glass from the bedside table, and methodically washes the item in the kitchen sink. Soon, the past, present, and distant past seemingly fuse into a surreal and reassuring incident as Ana’s dead mother (Geraldine Chaplin) passes through the kitchen and affectionately reminds Ana that it is past her bedtime. Later, a haunted and matured Ana (Geraldine Chaplin) recounts her childhood animosity towards her emotional callous and philandering father, blaming him for causing her late mother’s suffering that inevitably manifested in a slow, consuming illness. With the death of their father, Ana and her sisters, Irene (Conchita Pérez) and Maite, spend the rest of their summer vacation in the family home, entrusted to the care of Aunt Paulina (Mónica Randall), a stern, but well intentioned unmarried woman who discourages discussion about their parents in a mistaken belief that she is sparing the children from the grief of their profound loss. However, Paulina’s attention is preoccupied by her own surfacing romantic relationship, and the children are invariably left alone with their affable, obliging maid, Rosa (Florinda Chico) and their silent, detached grandmother (Josefina Díaz) whose own thoughts are consumed by cherished memories evoked from a collage of old family photographs. With little guidance and supervision, the children create an insular world that reflects the conflict, pain, and uncertainty of the enigmatic and impenetrable adult world around them. Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Mamá cumple 100 años AKA Mama Turns 100 (1979)

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Returning to the dysfunctional family dynamic and generational saga of Anna and the Wolves in its psychological exposition into the root of ingrained human cruelty and repression, Mama Turns 100 Years Old is a wry, eccentric, and provocative, if underformed satire on the latent trauma and moral repercussions of emotional subjugation, manipulation, and corruption. On the eve of the indomitable family matriarch, Mama’s (Rafaela Aparicio) centenary, former domestic servant Ana (Geraldine Chaplin), now the happily settled wife of a devoted, bohemian husband named Antonio (Norman Briski), has received a personal invitation from Mama herself to stay as a guest in the secluded family estate and celebrate the festivities – an unexpected request that, as Mama subsequently reveals, stems from the inescapable conviction that her family, goaded in part by her conniving daughter-in-law, Luchi (Charo Soriano) and enabled by her dotty, gullible son, Fernando (Fernando Fernán Gómez), has been underhandedly plotting to kill her before she reaches the all-important milestone. However, as Ana and Antonio alternately settle into their awkward roles as accommodating guests of absurd, idiosyncratic rituals and bemused observers of a deeply rended (if superficially intact) familial intimacy, the couple, too, inevitably becomes caught up in the corrosive atmosphere of petty infighting, superficial civility, aimless distraction, nebulous alliances, and emotional deception (a figurative entrapment that is visually encapsulated in Anna accidentally stepping into a rabbit trap within the estate grounds). Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Stress-es tres-tres AKA Stress Is Three (1968)

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Synopsis:

‘Fernando, with his wife and life-long friend, Antonio, set out on a weekend together. Fernando begins to suspect his wife and Antonio of being in love, and his jealousy grows as he observes them in a situation he, himself, created.’
– BFI

Carlos Saura on Stress-es tres-tres:

‘Despite the enormous success of Peppermint Frappe I felt on edge. I had told a story in that film, in the sense that a story with a very precise narrative thread was told. The reason for my dissatisfaction stemmed from the feeling that the story had trapped me and I wanted to be free of it. So I made Stress-es tres-tres which was a sort of liberation.’ Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Peppermint Frappé (1967)

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Synopsis:

‘Julian, a middle-aged single doctor, meets his childhood friend Pablo again. The latter is back from Africa and has just married a beautiful young blonde, Elena. Julian falls in love with her and tries to seduce her, but she mockingly pushes him away from her. He then finds that Ana, his nurse, bears a troubling resemblance to Elena. He decides to gradually transform Ana into Elena…’
– Guy Bellinger Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Elisa, vida mi­a AKA Elisa, My Life AKA Elisa, My Love [Uncut] (1977)

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Elisa, vida mía is a 1977 Spanish drama film written and directed by Carlos Saura. The film stars Saura’s long-term companion and frequent collaborator, Geraldine Chaplin. She stars alongside, Fernando Rey who won the Best Actor award at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

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‘ELISA, VIDA MIA’ By Vincent Canby Published: March 11, 1983

NEAR the end of Carlos Saura’s ”Elisa, Vida Mia,” Fernado Rey, in the role of an aging ascetic named Luis, talks movingly to his daughter, Elisa (Geraldine Chaplin), about his youthful artistic pretensions. He recalls that he used to spend hours and days polishing a letter, getting the syntax right, refining the thoughts and elevating the tone. Now, he admits, he prefers the spontaneous letter, unrefined, natural, with crossed-out words. Luis has no interest in Art. Continue reading

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica AKA Cousin Angelica (1974)

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The initial idea for the film came from a specific reference to a cousin Angélica, in a scene from Ana and the wolves (Spanish: Ana y los lobos), director Carlos Saura’s previous work. In Ana and the wolves there is an inconsequential bit of dialogue that occurs in the private conversation between the family matriarch and the title character. The old woman speaks of a certain cousin Angélica who, as a small child, coquettishly played with one of her sons. Building on that allusion, Saura and writer Rafael Azcona developed a script about the childhood memories of a man now in his mid forties and his flirtatious cousin, Angélica, on whom he had a crush when he was ten years old. These memories become the lure for the protagonist’s reencounter of his long suppressed past. Continue reading