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Hapless directing for a custombrist tale turned mystery
Based on a story which Luis Buñuel was preparing before he died.
Essentially the ingredients are good: four excellent and well-proven Spanish actors head the cast, the filming of the countryside is very good, though a bit dark in interiors, probably to add more unnecessary mystery to a story which has negligible mysteriousness, and the version given on Spanish State TV on its Second (supposedly `cultural') channel was cut from 134 minutes to just 94 minutes, and had no advertising breaks. Which was definitely a very good idea: there was really not enough substance in the story to prolong it further, and the absence of commercial interruptions was merciful, making the film just bearable.
A relative, accompanied by a young engineer, arrives at one of those `pazos'
great 18th Century mansions lying in remote parts of Galicia, north-west
Spain, in this case "Pazo Pousadouro' and filmed mostly around Redondela and Cangas, and Caminha at the mouth of the River Miño in Portugal. However the inhabitants of this would-be spooky pazo seem to be trying to keep certain things from the past very much to themselves. Nonetheless, things lead to other things, and hopping from tragedies to tragedies in a rather hapless sequence, the attempted mysterious custombrism comes to its very foregone conclusion, leaving the eeriness looking rather silly.
The film has its good points: lovely to see an authentic Portuguese steam locomotive, and of course the beautiful Galician countryside.
However, there are more failures than anything else: a shiny, clean table in a pigeon loft; not a single Galician accent among anyone in the cast; Clara Sanchís cannot play the piano, but that is the least of our worries as nobody should need to try to play the pseudo Beethoven/Chopin piece concocted, undoubtedly, by Juan Vara, who, most of the time did not do too much to annoy anyone watching.
Among the most frightful pieces of dialogue we have the scene when they rush down the balustraded stairs to find a corpse lying on the floor, and Madame Corredoira (Esperanza Roy) manages to utter the highly unlikely `Keep Calm, Marina; we must face up to whatever happens in life with serenity'. The translation is mine, but I can assure you the original Spanish was even more preposterous.
So, in keeping with the film, Francisco (Paco) Rabal was not a shadow of himself in `El Abuelo', which is a far superior film in all aspects. `Churra!' she shouts at the hens so as to scare them out into the yard. Well, it's hardly Galician; however there is a kind of gallinacea which is more or less a chicken called `churra' in Spanish.
No, Antonio Simón did not do his homework before venturing on this film. It might appeal to some of those who have a penchant for very exotic other-world films, in original language, of course, especially Hungarian, Latvian or rare Swedish gems and the like, and stay up until four o'clock in the morning to see them.
Oh, by the way, as if it were important: the film has never been shown in cinemas. Hardly surprising...........
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