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Either you like Bigas Luna, or you don't. Huevos de Oro is the middle
picture in his trilogy of weird romance films, the other two being the
more noted Jamon Jamon and the truly bizarre La Teta y La Luna. All
films have breast-obsessed Spanish macho men, sexy young women, love
starved 40-ish women, love triangles wrapped around the oddest plots,
and the most eyebrow raising sex conversations. All of these films seem
to parody the Javier Bardem Spanish macho man character and how he is
ultimately ruled by his libido. (The same can be said for most males).
Luna as a director introduced to me to three spectacular, stunning actresses in his films, namely Maria de Mederios, the now famous Penelope Cruz and Mathilda May. He also uses recent Oscar nominee Javier Bardem with great frequency.
In this film, there is a loose plot of a man (Bardem) who wishes to obtain financing for his construction business, and marries a woman he does not love (the wide-eyed Maria de Medieros) in the process. He maintains his passionate relationship with his first and true love, and ultimately gets entangled in his own romantic web. He never gives up his juggling act, until the three main characters come face to face.
What Luna does as a director is take these simple plots and wrap wonderfully strange characters with bizarre obsessions and mannerisms.
This movie has lots of passion, sex, conversation, and twisted romance, all bundled into an enjoyable and unique film. Many will be offended by Luna's unabashed approach to film-making, but this is still a fresh and unique picture. I recommend the three in this series highly. I can not guarantee you will like them, but I can guarantee that you will remember them. ***1/2
out of ****.
This film is Spanish. This statement is not as obvious as you might think. Bigas Luna makes films so rich in Spanish cultural references that it is true that without previous knowledge, or better yet experience, of Spain then much of the film's charm will be lost. He parodies the stereotypes of spanish culture- the macho male most obviously, but there are numerous others- in such a way that anyone who accuses the characters of being over the top and unbelievable would very nearly be fully justified, if it wasn't that they are so instantly recognizable. Javier Bardem's character has wonderfully kitsch taste, most notably his attire and the obsession he has with Salvador Dali (to the point of outlining the famous 'drawers' across the bodies of all the women in his life). This goes a long way to creating the visual style which is somehow spot on for the mediterranean coast. The story itself is quite touching in the end, as a man of great passion and ambition rises from having nothing to having all he desires before the inexorable decent commences. There is much symbolism in this film for those who enjoy it. For example Bardem aims to erect the tallest building in town, yet as it fails and crumbles, so does his sexual potency. This film is admittedly an aquired taste, not for people who thrive on the tried and tested Hollywood formulae, unless they are willing to explore into the exotic and foreign world of Bigas Luna.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Benito is an ambitious man. We meet him as he is doing his military
service in Melilla, a Spanish possession in Northern Africa. His dream
is to erect the biggest skyscraper in Benidorm, where high rises are
everywhere. Benito has deeply set obsessions, and a deep sense of
smell. Rita, who is his local girlfriend, has a peculiar odor he loves.
Benito's other obsession has to do with the weight of his women. Rita,
who only weighs 47 kilos is an ideal sexual partner.
After the army, Benito lands in Benidorm, where he wants to build his dream high rise. He is just full of air since he doesn't have money to back up his ambition. When he meets the lovely Claudia, who is a bit heavy, at 52 kilos, his luck begins to change. When he asks a bank to finance his construction, he meets resistance. After all, the wise banker sees right through the young man.
The banker's daughter, Marta, who is a slender woman weighing 45 kilos, takes an interest in Benito. They eventually marry. Benito, who also convinces a money man to invest in his building, starts building his dream. Marta, who suspects Benito is having affairs behind her back, gets proof of her suspicions when she finds intimate apparel that Claudia, in a fit of anger puts in Benito's jacket. Benito, who denies his escapades, finally admits to them and brings Claudia to his bed and Marta accepts the situation and the three begin to have an open relationship.
Unfortunately, Benito's luck begins to unravel. After a tragic accident where Claudia dies, his construction is paralyzed after the big investor pulls out. Benito also has a long convalescence to mend his broken body. At this time Marta, who is fed up with the way things have turned out, gets angry at Benito when he brings a prostitute, Ana, who never reveals her actual weight, as a substitute for Claudia. Benito, ends up losing it all as he and Ana settle in Miami.
Bigas Luna, the director of this film is a man who is not afraid to show raw sex in his movies, as it's the case here. He is making a statement about how Benito misuses his macho magnetism in the way he treats Rita, Claudia and Marta. These women are avenged by Ana, who constantly cheats on him with the hunky gardener. So actually, Benito is reduced to a pathetic figure who doesn't have a penny and sees his world and his ambitions turn against him.
Javier Bardem makes a great impression as Benito. He had already collaborated with Bigas Luna; both actor and director understand one another well, therefore the good results. Maria de Medeiros has a small part, but she makes the best out of her Marta. The gorgeous Maribel Verdu is perhaps the woman who really loved Benito. Elisa Tovati is seen as Rita; Raquel Bianca plays Ana and Benicio del Toro appears briefly as the gardener who is serving Ana.
"Huevos de oro" is not a film for the faint hearted, or the prude. Bigas Luna gives his audience what is expected of him.
Lots of rather drrunken partying and explicit sexual activity do not disguise the fact that Golden Balls tells a sad story. Bardem, as Benito the young construction worker consumed with ambitions, aspiration, and sexual desire, is very fine. I would give him most of the credit for making this an interesting film, but Bigas Luna, the director, shows great skill in his handling of Benito's tangled relationships with three women and his slick maneuvering to gain financing for his consuming desire to build the tallest skyscraper in the city. Benito scores success in business and with his women, but in the end meets his downfall, losing money and prestige as his shoddy building practices are exposed. Even worse, it is made clear to him that he is not as good in bed as his gardener, Bob, played by Benicio del Toro in what is little more than a cameo but very convincing.
This is a generally enjoyable send-up of the excesses of the 1980's:- the
get-rich quick, looking after no. 1 culture which prevailed for a
brief period. The anti-hero is a cynical building contractor who will do
anything to achieve his aim of making a fortune out of nothing, regardless
of the law or of any loyalty to those closest to him. Needless to say, he
gets his come-uppance and the final scene in which he smashes a lavatory
pieces is vintage Bigas Luna.
Unfortunately, it doesn't quite manage to keep up the same pace as "Jamon Jamon" and, particularly after about half way through, it starts to lose its momentum and the viewer starts to lose interest. But there are one or two scenes which are so funny that they alone make the film worth seeing, e.g. the three-in-a-bed scene in which he suddenly realises that he is not the fantastic lover he had always imagined he was.
With some films it is really hard to tell for whom they were made.
Huevos de oro seems to aim at the well educated Spanish middle class.
There must be many inside jokes in this movie which you will not
understand if you are an outsider. This can be pretty annoying.
Symbols and references to art and popular culture abound, the movie alludes to the work of Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel and the Surrealists in general, a certain infatuation with bidet baths seems to point to Duchamp's ready mades. What's more, the main character has also a knack for karaoke tapes with songs of Julio Iglesias. But why all this is mixed together in a rather pretty but also gratuitous way simply eludes me. I can only guess that it all serves to highlight the vital, impetuous, boorish vulgarity of the main character who the director seems to admire and despise at the same time. How all the really pretty women run after him (the main character, I mean) is slightly disconcerting.
The movie has three parts. It starts in the Spanish enclave of Melilla in Africa, where Benito, the main character, does his military service, apparently in the corps of engineers. Then it moves on to the resort town of Benidorm in Spanin where Benito just wants to build the highest skyscraper of the place and become a vulgarized Howard Roark. For the last part a defeated Benito moves to Miami, Florida, presumably in order to start a new life". But the change of places is not really explained satisfactorily. It is also somehow irritating that there is no character development and that the movie descends into a soap opera modus without being convincingly ironic. It must be said that Javier Bardem acquits himself very well playing the young stud who grows limp and deflated.
I purchased this movie because I am interested in townscapes. And Benidorm is a kind of a special place, townscapewise. In this aspect Huevos de oro satisfied me only partially. In Jess Franco's She Killed In Ecstasy (1970) this specific location was used in a more rewarding way.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bigas Luna has the interesting distinction of having, since his
breakthrough movie LAS EDADES DE LULU, a storyteller of erotic tales of
sex and power with that particular Spanish spice. Starting in 1992, he
began a loosely-based trilogy of sorts with JAMON JAMON which starred
the rising young actor Javier Bardem in a co-starring role. However, in
this movie Bardem gets the main role: that of an extremely ruthless
Lothario who is undeniably a Spanish machista and wants to construct
building so tall he can see his own house sitting on top of it from the
ocean, who winds up getting in a huge amount of trouble once his sexual
escapades and his shady dealings come to an awful head.
Bardem, being the lead with the "huevos de oro" which he proudly fondles, plays Benito Gonzalez, a young officer of humble beginnings who is on military service in Melilla and has high hopes as well as a taste of young love in Rita. However Rita eventually leaves Benito for his studly friend, breaks his heart, and mashes his spirit, to which we cut to some time in the future. Benito has apparently moved quite a bit in the construction business and is enjoying an early success. However, his morals have become corrupted and he can only see women as objectified harbingers of lust and a means for him to get ahead as well as mirror images of his feminine ideal.
He first encounters Claudia (Maribel Verdu), an aspiring dancer whom he is quick to flash out his jewelry while at the same time mocking her needs to please. She's "a little past" his ideal weight of 47 kilos, but she's sultry enough to capture his attention. However, such attention comes with warning signals that this won't be an easy road -- he draws abstract ideograms that depict etchings closer to that of a plastic surgeon's mappings that will dictate how a client will look after body reconstruction. They quickly fall into a relationship, but since he needs sponsors for his ambitions, he pimps her out to an older man whom she initially loathes because she wants to be faithful to him.
Benito, however, has no intentions of staying where he's at. Ana (Maria de Medeiros), the daughter of the banker backing him up, becomes his wife, and now Claudia becomes his mistress. Things threaten to get out of hand, and reach an anticlimactic head when Benito brings Claudia home and shocks Ana, but left alone, both females bond in recognizing how objectified they've become for the love of this man (who sings his favorite song, Julio Iglesias' 1970s hit "Por el amor de una mujer/For the Love of a Woman". They even recognize Benito's etchings on their body... and fall into a threesome.
Some events take place that bring Benito's inconsiderate hedonism down like the tower of Babel. Once that happens, his life spirals totally out of control: he loses everything, including Claudia to a car crash, and Ana due to an affair with a prostitute that takes her over the edge. Interesting, Bigas Luna has an epilogue that is fitting to such an antihero -- bringing him into unfamiliar land, with a woman who is his equal in every sense (and who refuses to conform to his needs of the ideal), and robbing him even of his own masculinity with the help of a young Benicio del Toro in a sinister yet equally erotic performance. Bigas Luna widens his erotic tale into a morality play that exposes the negative, ugly side of Spanish machismo (also inherent in Latin American countries), and Javier Bardem, oozing an overwhelming masculine presence, is perfectly cast as the stud who becomes a dud.
If the darkly comic tone of this film strikes you as a bit odd for what on the surface is a straight forward young-man-on-the-make drama, welcome to the world of Bigas Luna. What this is really is a satire on supposed masculine virtues in Latino culture. The main character, a wannabe real estate mogul played by Javier Bardem, throughout the film achieves material ambitions and rising to dominate others in classic alpha dog fashion, yet his victories seem hollow and shallow. This is all intended, but Luna was not aiming to create a morality play here. He just wanted to take cheap shots at talentless hacks who succeed on sheer chutzpah, and at cultures who lionize them for their successes however achieved. The main character could have been any ambitious rhymes-with-Rick in any field. One gets the idea that he might even have been based on somebody Luna knew from the film business...
HUEVOS DE ORO (Golden Balls) is a 1993 film by writer/director JJ Bigas
Luna (best known for his 'Jamon, Jamon' and 'Son de Mar') that suffers
from defective promo/packaging. The cover of the DVD (probably released
only of late because of Javier Bardem's growing popularity in this
country) suggests an edgy comedy: Bardem in a gold suit is seen
grasping his crotch! Nothing could be more misrepresenting as this is a
drama of lust, greed, power, and ruthlessness. Get past the promo and
settle in for a drama and the result is not bad.
Benito Gonzalez (Javier Bardem) is a construction worker with a dream: he is obsessed with power of building and owning the tallest building in Barcelona and of becoming the richest man who can own gold Rolex watches and have all the women he wants. He is a lustful lover, first with his best friend Mosca's (Francesco Dominedo) sister Rita (Elisa Tovati) whose body and scent are a passion for him. Yet he dreams of his tallest building (the possibility of his achieving this is not unlike the ease of getting an erection!) and he focuses his life on his greed. His co-worker Miguel (Alessandro Gassman) is to help him fulfill his dream, but when he discovers Miguel is sleeping with Rita he is incensed and leaves his lowly construction job for the promise of riches in Barcelona.
Through stepping on people, using devious means to get backing and money for his 'Gonzalez Tower', Benito gradually destroys all of those who want to help him - his new girl Claudia (Maribel Verdu) with whom he has another sexual obsession then talks into sleeping with one of his money source prospects, the banker (Albert Vidal) who has slept with Claudia becomes his father-in-law when for monetary gain Benito marries daughter Marta (Maria de Medeiros), a wily but wealthy film producer 'Gil with the Chickpeas' (Ángel de Andrés López), and more.
By breaking the law, abusing his 'friends', and lying in general Benito's building is nearly completed. But a series of tragedies involving Mosca's accidental death, and an auto accident with many permutations for Benito, and the ultimate loss of funding result in Benito's multiple losses of his dreams, betrayals of his pitiful sex life (this time a lowly gardener Bob (Benicio Del Toro) steals his paramour) leave Benito destroyed. The story is actually on the order of a Greek tragedy - but sadly without the impact.
Though Javier Bardem is a brilliant actor and is in the company of other exceptional actors, the script by JJ Bigas Luna is weak, paying little attention to character motivation and emphasizing instead gross caricatures. But if the film is taken as a recreation of the driving, greedy, power obsession of the 1980s then the message makes its impact. And it is always good to see early work by such actors as Bardem, Del Toro, and Verdu! Grady Harp
So, announces the DVD. But, this was a disappointing film. Not
particularly bad but definitely not that good. Rather more crude and
MTV video-like than the more subtle and masterful Jamon Jamon.
None of the characters are likable, the lovely Penelope Cruz of Bigas Luna's first film replaced by vacuous supermodels (in comparison, maybe they are great actresses) and it all reads like a tawdry and cheap paperback that you'd pick up at motorway service station.
Which, maybe is how Luna wanted it. Maybe he really is that repelled by the capitalist, nouveau-riche alpha male who believes his 'balls' not only rule his life but everybody else's, too. I know I am, and most people would be, too. Asked why Javier Bardem's lead character is sporting two gold Rolex's, he announces back "I have two balls, so I have two Rolex's".
Artistically there is little merit to this film, but it is about overblown, over-macho stereotypes and how they think they can walk over everybody. There are nods to Dali (the nude with ants over her pubic region is an extreme example) and there are more phallic insinuations in Goldenballs than any other film I know of. From Gonzalez (Bardem) Towers, intended to be the tallest tower on the Med, in which Luna loosely stretches a fabric of some kind of story around, with his dodgy dealings and cost-cutting.
Like, possibly his Tower, Gonzalez, and his potent sexual erections, does come a cropper, which is of some redemption, admittedly, but not enough to save the film. There's an early role for Benecio del Torro as the Miami-set gardener who happens to do more than service the sprinkler....
What finally made me only award two stars was the poor DVD quality. It's of video standard, plain and simple.
I bought Goldenballs as I wanted the three films in Luna's 'Iberian passion' trilogy, of which it is the middle. I'm seriously hoping that the final part, 'The Tit and the Moon' is an improvement.
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