This is only the third film I've watched from this Spanish director: the others were the compendium LES QUATRES VERITES (1962; the episode starring Hardy Kruger) and NOT ON YOUR LIFE (1963) - a veritable masterpiece often cited as the best Spanish film ever made - a black comedy dealing with capital punishment and featuring Italian star Nino Manfredi.
As with most film-makers hailing from this Mediterranean country, Berlanga's main concern are the vicissitudes and tribulations of man vis-a'-vis tradition and ongoing progress: here, therefore, we find an eminent and elderly nuclear scientist (Edmund Gwenn in his last role for the cinema) who suddenly disappears off the face of the earth - only to re-emerge in a tiny Spanish fishing community and attempting to lead an anonymous existence. However, his new vagabond lifestyle soon lands him in jail - except that the custodian is forced to let the inmates go on occasion because their presence is required elsewhere: for instance, Franco Fabrizi is a convicted smuggler who not only plays in the local band but also happens to be the cinema projectionist!
This allows the director to poke fun at figures of authority (there is also the priest who won't concede defeat even at a simple game of chess) but, at the same time, celebrate Spanish customs - such as religious processions, the corrida (unusual here in that it takes place near the sea-shore) and a rival display of fireworks (where Professor Gwenn's mathematical prowess certainly comes in handy, thus leading the people of Calabuch to victory for the first time - but, then, a snapshot of the occasion exposes his true identity and the modern world on the outside comes beckoning to him once more!).
The latter results in a somewhat anti-climactic 'curtain' as the Professor goes back to his former duty without so much as a struggle, either from the old man himself or the community which had come to appreciate and love him. In retrospect, the entire film disappoints - in that I had expected the satire to be of a more scathing nature...but the pleasant detail of unassuming everyday life and Gwenn's central performance are, nonetheless, enough to sustain considerable interest throughout.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?