Juan is an academic, his career stalled, teaching at the university because of his brother-in-law's prestige. María José is a socialite, married to wealth, bored but attached to her comforts. The two are lovers. On an isolated country road, their car strikes a cyclist; fearing exposure, they leave him to die. Distracted, Juan unjustly fails a student. Rafa, a bitter savant in their social circle, hints that he knows something, and he threatens to expose them to María José's husband, Miguel. Miguel's pride may be the lovers' best hope. Then Juan proposes a solution. Written by
I found this movie to be almost perfect in its blend of psychological horror, noir depiction of locale, and suspense.
From the moment this beautiful-to-the-eye couple hits the cyclist, you see their lives start to come undone (a time-honored theme exemplified by Zola's "Therese Raquin"). You begin to see what each of them is made of and will become.
The sense of existentialism is intense as we witness how life can begin going south in an instant.
Though the gentleman in this drama is involved with a married woman, he does have a conscience. His paramour is the archetypal ice queen to whom nothing and no one matters but herself. (We wonder what he saw in her anyway, other than a pretty face in a mink and pearls.)
I don't speak Spanish but my sister is a translator of the language and I could tell that the absolute, purest articulation of the language was employed in this film. What an aesthetic pleasure to hear these actors enunciate!
I wasn't familiar with any of the actors here. Indeed, not being an Almodovar fan, I can count the number of Spanish films I've seen on one hand. Yet I found the casting in "Death" to be brilliant. Who was that self-hating art critic, anyway? What an unforgettable face and slimy demeanor! (As fascinating and creepy as it was to observe this character, his hazy knowledge never made much sense...where the heck did he get his information?)
Despite these quibbles, I loved the way this movie made paranoia and obsession virtual characters in the plot. And I savored the brilliant flamenco interlude.
I'm not ashamed to admit the penultimate scene, when Senora Icy takes the wheel, took me by surprise. The very last scene was the only one in the film that felt cliché-ish and not worthy of what had preceded it.
Still, this is one masterful work.
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