4 items from 2015
Caught in the Quagmire: Rodriguez’s Satisfying Period Neo-Noir
Having swept the 2014 Goya Awards back home (winning ten of its sixteen nominations, including Best Film), Spanish director Alberto Rodriguez’s Marshland is a character driven cop thriller with the brooding intensity attributed to the contemporary movement of Nordic Noir. Incorporating specific historical elements into its pulpy tapestry for a bit of extra resonance, Rodriguez and his regular co-scribe Rafael Cobos unveil their central mystery with such painstaking deliberateness it’s easy to overlook some of the narrative’s generalities.
Set in rural Spain, just five years after the death of Franco and the fall of his ruthless dictatorship, Rodriguez recalls a nation in transition, introducing an easily fueled binary of good cop vs. bad cop based on the juxtaposing political tenor. As usual, women are relentlessly maligned, even though its dire misogyny transpires off-screen, a typicality more easily forgiven thanks to its ‘period. »
- Nicholas Bell
“Money makes the world go ‘round,” is one of the baldest truths ever expressed in a Kander and Ebb lyric, and the cynical takeaway of “Happy 140.” Spanish helmer Gracia Querejeta’s blackly comic melodrama follows the winner of a 140 million euro lottery and the frenemies she invites to a luxurious Canary Islands hideaway where she plans to divulge her happy news. With a high-concept script that is ripe for a remake and a cast of well-known Spanish thesps, the glossy-looking pic should continue making the festival rounds but isn’t special enough overall to breakout of the Spanish-lingo ghetto.
To mark her 40th birthday, pretty but high-strung veterinarian Elia (Maribel Verdu) cajoles her old gang to get together, at her expense. She has several hidden agendas for the party, but so, too, as it turns out, do her guests. They include her docile sister Cati (Marian Alvarez), and her wife-beating »
- Alissa Simon
Sebastian del Amo’s “Cantinflas,” Alonso Ruizpalacios’ “Gueros” and Ernesto Daranas’ “Behavior” feature in the competition at the 21st Lleida Catalonia Latin American Film Festival, which runs April 10-17.
Lleida, alongside Andalucia’s Huelva film fest, represents the biggest showcase of Latin American pics in Spain. Fest’s official selection comprises ten films in competition.
Argentine cinema, with five titles, dominate the official selection’s list, as Argentine films score frequent distribution runs in Spain. Though the main part screen in a small number of theaters, some of them generate solid box office.
Six of the feature films vying for honors arefrom first-time directors, hinting at a seemingly bottomless Latin American new talent pool.
Standout titles in the official selection from the ever building Latin American film industry includes Oscar Jaenada-starrer “Cantiflas,” Mexico’s Oscar entry, which, distributed by Pantelion, became 2014’s second-highest-grossing foreign-language film in the U.S. »
- Emiliano De Pablos
Directed by Alberto Rodríguez
The disorientating topography of the Andalusian swamplands provides the backdrop for Marshland, an atmospheric murder mystery from Spanish director Alberto Rodríguez. It opens to a series of spectacular aerial shots, taken from directly above, which transform the landscape into something alien and organic, like brightly coloured brain tissue. Birds and agricultural workers moving across the surface only emphasise the strangeness of the territory, showing how limited the perspective is from ground level. In theory, seeing the bigger picture should add clarity – the film returns to these shots at moments of revelation – but, rather than doing so, it exposes the gaps in the characters’ understanding and seems to suggest that some puzzles are too big to solve.
Marshland is set in 1980, a time when Spain is still emerging from the Franco era and adapting to the new democratic regime. »
- Rob Dickie
4 items from 2015
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