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Viaje sin regreso (1946)
A platinum-blonde upper-class Argentinian woman and her two lovers
Florence Marly-s voice is dubbed by a too dull and over-dramatic Argentinian actress, but anyway she gets away bringing a much needed film-noir femme fatale touch to her character. Although it is difficult to evaluate her acting, she seems to manage good enough with her unoriginal character, and some close-ups show her ravishingly beautiful. Her main suitor is played by Sebastian Chiola, who has got an obscure past and suspected of a murder. Anyway he is Isabel's (Florence Marly) main love interest. Yet, there is another good-looking, younger, and also moustached suitor who for a while entices Isabel, but ends up dying in a duel with his rival. Against all odds, and social ill reputation, the surviving suitor goes to live in the huge bourgeois Patagonian mansion, in which Isabel, her sister, and a greedy aunt - who hates the ill-reputed lover - inhabit. The plot is too melodramatic but entertaining. Despite the very lousy VHS copy I managed to see (which is now "miraculously" available in youtube), photography, setting, I could notice value productions were very good and I hope one day a remastered copy will surface somehow and make justice to this interesting mix of Latin-melodrama with film noir touches. Florence Marly is actually convincing playing an Argentinian and rich woman with implied Norwegian origins, since the plot mentions a couple of experiences she had in her stays in the Nordic country. Hunky and elegant Carlos Thompson who later would also go-Hollywood has got a smaller role, as one of the friends in Isabel's parties and cocktails and other leisure activities. It is in sum a tragic love story (a couple of tortured lovers with lots of regrets and stress) with an apparently conventional ending which actually came out as a bit surprising for what it revealed about one of the characters.
La casa de mi padre (2008)
A shattered Basque family trying to cope with political turmoil and stay together
I would say that the movie focuses mainly on people that are in the black list of the Basque pro-independence organisation ETA, and this group's acts of terrorism. The main protagonist (Carmelo Gómez) was a successful plastic factory owner, who (coz he seems to have been linked to unspecified non-Basque political groups? was it because he did not pay the money they asked?), like many other businessmen, started to be threatened by ETA with anonymous life-threatening letters. He has spent 7 and a half years in Argentina where he, his wife (Emma Suárez), and 19 years old pretty daughter with a very-strong Argentinian accent (Verónica Echegui). The movie starts when the three members of the Garai family return to Gipuzkoa by plane and arrive to the international Airport of San Sebastian (actually located in Hondarribia, where the protagonists will stay with wealthy grand-mother). The protagonists' only brother (a left-wing pro-independence ex-town councillor who is now fed-up of ETA's violence) is cancer-stricken and is going to die very soon, they quarrelled and have been distanced for political differences, but now they will sort of reconcile. The bed-ridden brother is married to a secessionist but sensitive Basque woman, who is also working-class and a plastic artist who paints a portrait of his niece (Verónica Echegui). They have a handsome teen son who is a pelotari or Basque ball player, or wants to train to become one; and a much younger daughter. The film portraits a Basque Country of small towns in which ordinary people are often whether active intolerant and rage-stricken Basque secessionists or rather defencive and afraid of ETA; and in which ETA is apparently killing innocent people everyday; where brainwashed Basque youngsters do ordinarily destroy telephone boxes, bank cashiers, or burn urban buses. People who are killed by ETA are portrayed as very ordinary good-hearted, human, tolerant and friendly people. For instance, no clues are given as to understand what it is that the case of a very nice journalist victim wrote or did that made the terrorists so furious to the point as targeting him as eventual victim. The movie portraits the Basque Country's small town as an extremely difficult place to live due to the social control exerted by ordinary people radicalised by ETA, but these scenes of extreme street violence look an exaggeration for a story that is supposed to take place in 2008: it looks more like a 1980's or 1990's Basque Country. It is also unbelievable that someone who receives life-threatening letters from ETA would refuse any police bodyguard, even when his wife is insisting that he should. The two protagonists are this Basque industrialist and his nephew, and the uncle's character is portrayed as a family-man, very human and with very good-intentions trying to fulfil the promise he made to his dying brother that he would save his pelotari nephew from ETA partisans' brain-washing. Implicitly, he might be the ultimate good-honest Basque man, who is misunderstood by his community and hated by evil secessionists. I understand that at present day it is difficult to make a politically balanced movie about the Basque conflict, specially when the Spanish state and other local televisions are financing your work. So I expected such ideological bias. Anyway, I think the director succeeds in the choice and direction of actors, that dialogues and images were well put together, and in spite of the commented shortcomings watching the movie was rather entertaining and not a waste of time. However, although many scenes and specially secondary characters (e.g. young actors of Basque soap-opera Goencale mixing Basque and Spanish in their dialogues; the somehow cliché but effective character of the Catholic grand-mother, gossip in the shops...) do at times succeed at giving the movie some local taste, the movie fails (or is not even interested) to grasp the underlying issues of the Basque conflicts. In a well played and touching scene the now widow aunt has to account why she persists in worshipping her brother (a member of ETA who died in prison) and invites her niece (Echegui) to join a street celebration to pay homage to this "victim of Spanish police's repression". He is someone described as a ETA's hit-man by the charming and cheerful teen's mother (Emma Suarez), who is stressed, traumatised and hates the town and its ETA-sympathiser dwellers. This artist aunt is also allowed to explain why she hates the Spanish repressive forces: it is justified as the result of torture she suffered in their hands. So the film tries to show a deep concern and broader scope to analyse different positions in the Basque conflict, but at least it actually manages to be an entertaining fiction work. If you do not expect to find an accurate analysis of the Basque conflict, you might enjoy some aspects of it: say the Basque sites and the charm and beauty of some young and middle-aged members of the cast.
Primer y último amor (2002)
elderly people's romance in a geriatric rest house in the Pyrenees
The main reason I taped this movie yesterday is that I wanted to see how Rosanna Yanni (a sex-symbol of many European co-productions and Spanish sexy-comedies in the 60's and 70's) looked in 2002, and I expected her role to be very small. The second reason I taped it is because my mother is a big fan of Lola Herrera and she had the main feminine lead in this movie. I also expected the movie to be rather boring and uninteresting. I was glad to see that Rosanna Yanni had aged well and looked good playing an attractive, chic, smart, and rather outspoken blonde manager/employee that gets involved and interacts a lot with the many elderly (and some very elderly) clients that live in a mix of clinic-rest house set near Jaca in the Pyrinean mountains (in Aragón, northern Spain). Even if she hasn't got any individual scene, and was granted only a few scattered close-ups, she manages to became a stimulating presence throughout a very slow and rather depressing movie. I felt relieved to see she is presented as an attractive and relatively young middle-aged woman, a widow who recently moved from Buenos Aires to work in Spain, and was not one of the many elderly people that populated the movie. I was delighted to notice that her voice was not dubbed, like they often did in her heydays, as here she plays an Argentinian. Other than that, the movie portrays the romance between two people that re-encounter there 50 years after the Spanish civil-war had shattered their projects and dreams to undertake a life together in the USA, where he would later became a teacher of history at the University of Philadelphia. Many flashbacks alternate that portray the two people as very good-looking adolescents and youngsters in their several encounter that took place in the 1920's and 1930's in the same site where later the rest house would be built. When the two of them meet they have aged a lot and they don't recognise their first (apparently 100% platonic) love in their now late-sexagenarian bodies and faces. The young actors who portray the two main characters are pretty but sound rather luck-luster, probably because of a very old-fashioned script (cliché ridden) intended to stress how they were pure, innocent, etc. In addition, the re-encounter of the sexagenarians is written in a very pedestrian way, and often the work of the camera seems to be done as if they were just trying to film a theatrical play. I think that the beautiful landscapes of the Pyrennees were nearly-wasted, which is really a pity, and the movie seemed to focus too much in the past of time, cemeteries, different diseases and death which contributed to make it a rather feel-bad movie. Lola Herrera is a great professional actress, but here at times she delivered her lines as if addressing to an audience who was indeed a theatre public. Their romance and their theoretically witty and smart dialogue of people who have lived and survived many experiences seemed often too conventional. Yet, the plot tries unsuccessfully to counterbalance this overwhelming feeling of decadence, boredom, and sadness. For instance, it tries to contrast the sexagenarian couple's relative youngness and charm with the irrationality of bored octogenarian women who live only for gossip (very well played by real-life octogenarian Maria Isbert, and by septuagenarian Asunción Balaguer), but overall the main characters look as tired and lifeless as the movie itself. I'm glad Rossana Yanni was back to movies as an attractive sexagenarian who could play a bit younger characters, but sad to see that after this movie she seems to have retired once again. Did she find this late experience so unrewarding?
La signora della città (1996)
mafia survivor aristocrat girl with a dangerous bone illness changes identity and tries to starts a new life out of trouble in New York as a top model, but...
This is an entertaining mafia movie, but don't expect to see either Dalila Di Lazzaro or Anita Ekberg on it. Whether their scenes were deleted or they just did not work in this movie. I don't know why these two divas are always supposed to be among the cast members. On the contrary, Carroll Baker is on it, and provides the movie's best moments playing a very evil posh lady with close links to the mafia. There is also a cluster of eye-candy young actors and actresses who are less known outside Italy. All in all, it was a bit long, but not a waste of time. I give it a 6 out of 10. With Dalila and Anita would have been better!!!
Oscuros sueños de agosto (1968)
a middle-aged woman with depression meets her only daughter 18 yeas after she abandoned her husband
This is a rather depressing story about a woman who suffers depression and returns to Spain from Venezuela, where she has been living with her wealthy lover. This woman, well played by a dubbed Viveca Lindfors, seeks treatment in an asylum which appears to be located near Madrid. Although they hadn't meet since she was a 4 years old child, her daughter (a dull Sonia Bruno) is not resentful, and joins the mother in the asylum, where the patient will undergo a psychodrama treatment. The plot revolves around both women's difficult relationships with their respective lovers, and the rich patients who surround the middle-aged (Viveca and Francisco Rabal) and young (Sonia Bruno and Julian Mateos) couples. Some other small characters which are quite interesting are patients such as a highly neurotic blonde bombshell actress (played by lovely Gisia Paradis), a bipolar and gossipy woman (Laly Soldevilla)...both providing a few very welcome camp humour relax moments to an otherwise very gloomy story. I liked the psychodrama session scene with Viveka and Rabal reenacting the scene that triggered her depression, and I think that the film was well handled, had good production values, good development of characters. Maybe the young couple lacked charisma, and some scenes were a little bit slow-paced. Francisco Rabal played his usual strong male-voiced masculine self, and if effective, I don't find him interesting. Viveca Lindfors was very compelling, and with her use of body and facial expressions managed to bring to life her not very appealing part of a depressed bourgeois housewife. Julian Mateos had a nice body at the time, and was OK as the tortured alcoholic and violent patient who seduces the visiting sweet Sonia Braga. Overall, a curious example of the Spanish attempt at a sort of new wave in the 1960's by the prestigious Miguel Picazo (La Tia Tula, 1964), and mainly recommended to Miss Lindfors' fans.
The Fan (1949)
Reflects very well Oscar Wilde's novel's atmosphere
The story of "Lady Windemere's Fan" is a touching portrait of repression and hypocrisy in England during the Victorian era. The pivotal character in the movie is the charming, mysterious wise and beautiful middle-age woman played by Madeleine Carroll, who returns to the conservative upper-class milieu that had banished and rejected her decades ago. She manages to come to terms with the most delicate and unresolved aspects of her past, but she has to pay a very high price for that. Nevertheless, she is a survivor and in her eighties she will be able to make a balance and reflect on that crucial episode of her past. Madeleine Carroll and George Sanders are perfectly cast as the middle-age charmers and schemers, and also sound believable as the frail but smart octogenarian survivors, and deliver great performances on the hands of Preminger, who is able to maintain a good rhythm and to capture what we might figure is the Victorian society's aristocratic milieu of gossips and intrigues. I also enjoyed Martita Hunt as a typical upper-class eccentric, manipulative and witty matron; and thought that both Richard Greene and Jeanne Crain were OK as the younger Windemere couple. I think that this underrated little gem deserves a wider distribution. I am very lucky that in Spain the DVD of "The Fan" has been released in September 2007.
Bailey's Bird (1977)
adventures in an island?
I watched this series in the Spanish TV in the late 1970's. I really enjoyed it. It involved a pilot and his teen son, whom lived among the native Polinesian people. The handsome blonde Mark Lee (best known for "Gallipoli") played the son and he was very good friends with a Polinesian teenager. It was the typical adventure movie for all family, and I most remember it for the sympathetic, straightforward character played by the youthful Mark Lee. I wish I could watch it again, to check if I would be able to enjoy it nowadays. Unfortunately, I don't remember much more, except that the father seemed to be always repairing the helicopter, and that at times the teen friends got involved in dangerous situations.
A ruined USA citizen lives in Marbella on a yacht and plots to rob the money a powerful international arm-smuggling trader is going to deposit in a Swiss bank
This is an unpretentious thriller with mild touches of humour and sex that seems to have been produced as a showcase of the cost of Malaga, and specifically of the then trendy city of Marbella. Despite the presence of Rod Taylor and Britt Ekland, this movie never quite made it out of Spain.
I was surprised to notice that a very aged Rod Taylor and a mature Britt Ekland, as the blonde & sexy former starlet that teams-up with Rod Taylor and joins not only his bed but also his robbery plans, were indeed effective on their roles. Being this an Spanish production, the cast was benefited with the presence of two of the most prestigious Spanish actors: Fernando Fernan Gomez and Francisco Rabal, and some younger talented people like Oskar Ladoire and Emma Suarez. All the above mentioned actors played the Spanish team of collaborators, specialised, respectively, on forgery of signatures (Gomez), wallet-picking (Rabal), and impersonation of characters (Ladoire, who works on a local night club imitating Groucho Marx). A very young Emma Suarez shows generously her beautiful breasts and other parts of her body, but she is also given the opportunity to display her acting skills as the frivolous and cheeky little girl (18 years old) that re-encounters her strained and distant father (Gomez) and tends to develop attraction/repulsion interactions with elderly men such as Rod Taylor, whom she first seduces and later insults in front of a crowd. By contrast, this time no nude scenes were required from a serene Britt Ekland that endures the humiliation of being cheated, although waiting for a change to take revenge and be free again from chauvinistic males such as the very-macho Rod Taylor.
In sum, you can watch it if you enjoy the sea, yachts, or you are an unconditional fan of any of the actors involved. Otherwise, you should have better things to do and you can perfectly skip this movie.
Un sudario a la medida (1969)
a man is hired to impersonate a millionaire that is his lookalike and is involved in very dangerous businesses
I liked some parts of it and disliked others. This is an average spy thriller with many typical ingredients of the 1960's James Bond movies parodies. At times reminded me of the much superior Mario Bava's "Diabolik", probably because of many car chase and sea resort scenes and two sultry women in mini-skirts: Anita Ekberg and Margaret Lee. The protagonist is the often wooden actor John Richardson (the hero of the Hammer's kitsch movie "She" with Ursula Andress). He is a man that gets involved in a dangerous spy game when he is offered a huge amount of money by the ambiguous Fernando Rey (Luis Bunuel's favourite actor and prestigious international character actor) to impersonate a millionaire who happens to be persecuted by various gangs that try to chase and kill him. There is a subplot of international weapon-smuggling, money washing and other criminal activities based in Gibraltar between Afrika and Europe. The most appealing aspect of this movie is his interesting cast: Anita Ekberg looks great specially in the train scenes when she first meets the hero and she brings some genuine warm to an underwritten character that she seems to play with a certain detachment. Fernando Rey shows his usual professionalisms and it was also nice to see some good Spanish actors playing small parts. The direction and the plot are routine, but most of it is well filmed. However, the movie is slow paced and you feel often bored.