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Luis García Berlanga
José Luis López Vázquez,
This reminds me of that bleak Australian forgotten gem Wake in Fright where dusty sunbaked desolation brings out the worst animal instincts in a group of men, in this case five guys, old friends or acquaintances who haven't seen each other in years, who go out in the Spanish sierra to hunt rabbit. Whereas Wake in Fright at least on some level acquiesces to the idea that we're not perfect beings and revels in anarchy and amorality, Carlos Saura's film feels reactionary. Dialogue and characterization feels calculated to bring out the worst in the characters, they're fully unpleasant from the get go and staying out in the scorching midday heat under a makeshift tent makes them more irritable and frustrated. Their own deadend lives and petty concerns reflect their hunt - from a safe distance, picking off defenceless animals. This is something to pass the time, or worse, an excuse for not passing the time.
I like how Saura films the arid landscape in unflattering shots. This is not the picturesque desert of Lawrence of Arabia. This is an inhospitable patch of dirt where nothing grows and Saura gives us flat shots of dusty hillsides. I also like the frantic hand-held shots, of rabbits running amok through the sparse undergrowth, of the hunters inspecting their rifles and jerking them to aim at the distance, and now someone is nervously wiping sweat off his forehead and musing unpleasant thoughts in voice-over, suspicion or aggression. But everything feels calculated here, and Saura's political commentary does not go amiss. The owner of the hacienda where they go to hunt has discovered the skeletal remains of someone from the "war" (it could be the Spanish civil war, although one of the companions snaps irritably "does it matter which war?") and keeps them hidden in a cave. This is a category, a finger raised in outraged accusation against the worst in us.
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