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Emilio Martínez Lázaro
Pilar López de Ayala,
A work of Valle-Inclán, the story takes place in Galicia in the early twentieth century. To escape poverty, the wife of a sacristan uses a hydrocephalic child as a sideshow attraction. This causes a confrontation with her sister-in-law.
Juana is married off by her pious parents, the Catholic kings Ferndinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, to ally Spain, united by their marriage, to the Burgundian and other Habsburg heritage of archduke Maximilian's son Philip. When they meet, it's love at first sight, for her all-consuming, for him one of many happy bed partnerships as she later discovers. Deaths in her family soon make Juana Isabella's heir, but Ferdinand suggests she inherited her grandmother's madness and supports Philip's ambition to rule instead, which becomes the stakes of political maneuvering in the Cortes (nobility-dominated parliament). Combined with Philip's incurable infidelity, which includes a Moorish whore-princess, multiple drama is inevitable, and worse follows. Written by
I haven't enjoyed many films from Spain, but "Juana La Loca" (curiously translated by the distributors as "Mad Love" instead of the more appropriate "Joan The Mad") now tops my list of Spanish language films. It may not be an accurate portrayal of historical events (it's pretty safe to say many liberties were taken in that regard), but it's still worth seeing. Think of it as a play loosely based on historical persons as opposed to a bio-pic presentation of their lives.
This is a big, handsome costume drama that evokes Renaissance Spain with gusto, although there's a certain movieness to the look of things: almost everyone is abnormally good looking and everyone's clothes are remarkably clean (Philip, Juana's betrothed, sports a physique that smacks of modern day gyms; it's doubtful that a monarch who doesn't lift a finger would be so chiseled). By contrast, "Shakespeare In Love" captured some of the grubbiness of life during the Renaissance.
The soundtrack is also a bit heavy-handed, with music that occasionally gets a bit obvious.
But overall, this movie attacks its subject matter with relish and intellect. Instead of obligatory sword fights and battle sequences, "Juana La Loca" opts for dialogue that oozes with machinations and intrigue, and a pace that keeps things moving along and the viewer interested.
I give it 7 on a scale of 10.
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