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Now resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
La chispa de la vida (2011)
A String of Pearls
My Summary phrase came to mind after watching this 2011 Álex de la Iglesia masterwork. It was, as a string of pearls, a string of scenes, so perfect, so smooth in their sequencing, that, with the help of an impeccable photography and admirable soundtrack we got spell bounded from the beginning of this splendid movie to its brilliant ending, a pathetic story almost unbearable to watch.
Unbearable to watch thanks to the forceful interpretation of our protagonist couple, Luisa (Salma Hayek) and Roberto (José Mota) who, all of a sudden, find out how tough and painful life can become in a matter of seconds.
Roberto's desperation to find a job, after months of fruitless interviews is the Gordian knot that plunges him (and us) into what will become a major film. The script construction is peerless, as is the interpretation of every actor involved in the complicated choreography, very difficult to film, of this gem of a movie, all encompassed by the hand of this genius, Alex de la Iglesia.
Only at the end of the projection we get the subliminal message given at the start of the movie, behind the cast names and credits, with takes that seem to be only background texture..., and they tell you the whole story.
Our string of pearls has a gorgeous diamond clasp. It loops the string with a superb finale, showing us how deep is Luisa's love for her husband Roberto. It couldn't have had a better ending.
El aura (2005)
And Then There Were None.
As a movie, it's very well done, and yes, maybe unnecessarily a bit too slow, and I don't care how good an actor can be, when you fix a camera on his face, full close-up for whole minutes at a time and hope for the spectator to guess what this silent face is thinking... is asking for too much.
The background music is exceptional.
All the characters in this movie are DREADFUL PEOPLE and I at least am sick and tired of dreadful characters. Why is it more interesting to follow the life of these kind of rats of the underworld when there is a brighter side to it?
The scum of humanity. What else can you call people that take pleasure from shooting vulnerable animals with long distance rifles for the sake of it??
"Life's a pain anyway" said once Greta Garbo to Laurence Olivier. Fine! but then don't make it more painful by making this kind of extremely depressing movies please!
This film ends like Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus"!!! Even if I share Greta's point of view, for X's sake... give me a bit of color to make it through the day!!!
As most other reviewers I appreciate all the good qualities on this production, truly remarkable, especially because compared with a Hollywood production it has been made with peanuts, and that alone takes a lot of credit!!!
An interesting turnabout on the main character is his building up a stronger self with his reaction towards the nastiness commanding the action of bullies but that seems to be the only positive lesson, although he accomplished it with extreme violence.
I found incompatible his "I don't kill animals" with being a taxidermist. Although his action at the end of the movie shows us that maybe, after all, he didn't mind killing animals.
El fondo del mar (2003)
After seeing "Tiempo de valientes" by this very gifted director, Damian Szifron, and being mesmerized by the high quality of that movie, I searched for another of his few titles, and found "El fondo del mar", which is a previous production, maybe his first movie.
They say that "second parts are never good", well, in this case we have to reverse the saying because the second part ("Tiempo de valientes") is undoubtedly MUCH better than the first film ("El fondo del mar") and I'm sure Mr. Szifron agrees with me.
Here I will plagiarize the phrase another reviewer used as the title for his critic, a jdruni, from Philadelphia, that said "Moods rather than storyline". How accurate, how clear minded to be able to express with a minimum of words the whole purpose of this picture!! (But nobody knows if the movie was made with that intention).
They touch here the jealousy motive, old as the world and a never ending manifestation of the human character as long as people will survive to only three inhabitants on this earth. Paranoid jealousy can be extremely perilous. For the jealous and for his/her victim.
What the jealous person doesn't realize is that when his/her partner gets a lover, THERE IS A REASON for doing so. It's so simple. Most people never think that one may not be totally fulfilling as a lover, a friend, a caring partner, etc. because... NOBODY IS PERFECT!!
We all lack or fail in a determined field and the other person has to look for that missing link on somebody else. Many triangles are the perfect solution for this dilemma. But unfortunately people get extremely aggravated when they are faced with their own weaknesses and there comes out the ugly monster of jealously and the following discussions, beatings, and many times, killings.
It's a pity that this film starts in excellent shape to go downhill scene by scene to a very confusing ending, leaving the audience in a blank state of confusion. For example, the episode of the empty swimming pool was so obscure that I only got its meaning towards the end, when somebody mentions that incident. And many other details get lost without explanation or even motive!! The actors were good and the technical part irreproachable. But the film lets you down.
Tiempo de valientes (2005)
Riveting. From Beginning to End.
Impeccable production characterizes this jewel of a film. The photography, as realistic as present technique allows it to be, introduces us in intimate contact to this couple --the policeman and his psychoanalyst-- so cozily that we feel we are there with them, following their casual conversation in the car, few minutes into the movie, while looking at a lovingly photographed Buenos Aires on hand picked locations as if we are just seeing a background on an apparently casual route.
The camera movements are awesome. Its smoothness throughout the whole movie makes of every scene a natural happening helped by a precise use of lighting, either for the day scenes or the night time.
What can we say about the director --Damián Szifron-- and his actors? they are a sheer joy in every scene --not only Diego Peretti and Luis Luque, the above mentioned couple of psychoanalyst and patient --every single actor in this movie is role perfect, delivering their lines with a naturalness that was absolutely unknown in the historical Argentinian films. There are many clever lines, in the comedy scenes and in the dark --very dark-- serious moments, specially with that cameo intervention of Gabriela Iscovich --the psychoanalyst wife-- in a hilarious role.
A superbly entertaining film with a bit of everything, comedy, noir, mystery, violence, all done with that Argentinian flavor unique to this country, like that scene in the policeman car, where the three guys are drinking Mate --the Argentinian familiar drink par excellence-- as if drinking Mate in a police car was a natural, everyday situation.
Excellent film from any point of view.
Alejandra Manzo. Incredible.
Every so often I watch an old Argentinian movie on You tube. For reasons unknown to me, most of those copies are in such rotten condition that most of the time they deflate your desire to watch the movie.
Specially those from the 20s, 30s, 40s and fifties.
What happened, they don't care about the preservation of our historical patrimony? From the 60s to the present there seems to be no problem with audio and visuals.
I mentioned that historical period of Argentinian movie making because the transition from that bland, amateurish, mediocre industry to what became later in the XXth century is something to be seen to believe it - I place the dividing line with "La historia oficial"- "Official Story", 1985, a movie that was a sort of an earthquake (at least for me) a jaw dropping jewel of a movie that defined a new standard of excellency for the Argentinian cinema.
More expert critics with our industry will certainly place that dividing line somewhere else.
And since then, many jewels adorn our cinema. Like this one, "Anita". Wow, what an excellent movie!! Every thing about it is top drawer, from the director down to the last extra. And same thing can be said about the cinematography. Peerless. The girl playing Anita -Alejandra Manzo- fitted the perfect casting like a glove fits a hand, a dream of any director when having to convey Down syndrome with that awesome understanding and delicacy respecting the sensibilities of actors and audiences alike.
Very moving film in most scenes, without being wimpy. Something utterly difficult to hold back in this case, where the director could have gone overboard with emotions creating a tsunami of tears. I assume the girl playing Anita is not, in real life, as incapacitated as the character in the film, otherwise it must have been a miracle to have her saying her lines as she did.
To me, Anita's character is the most pathetic I've seen since "Precious", 2009, with Gabourey Sidibe, and of course Gelsomina, in "La Strada", 1954, that unforgettable Fellini's masterpiece.
Turn the Key Softly (1953)
Turn the Key Softly
I loved this movie! The three women destinies in a large metropolis (London -1950s) after they come out of jail with very different expectations seems to be quite an usual storyline in those years. London itself --as any large city-- looks completely different from the present London, although through this gloriously misty black and white photography it has a nostalgic Memory Lane feeling absolutely unique.
One wishes to have been able to walk those streets and feel that particular atmosphere, completely gone by now.
The film: It's so very well acted and edited that when it comes to the end, it seems to have only lasted for ten or fifteen minutes. The three women stories are quite banal but engaging because they are displayed alternately so we get to know these characters one by one and at the same time, since they run parallel lives and will keep in touch through different daily happenings.
The beauty and sex appeal of a young Joan Collins was something to be seen. She was gorgeous! specially at the beginning, when still in jail and without any noticeable make up, she was stunning. As stunning as Joan, but on a different level was Yvonne Mitchell, a sedated beauty, classy and cool, very elegant and certainly as grand as any titled lady (many titled ladies will kill their grandmothers if they could look like her).
The sequence on top of the building with the intervening police was quite nerve wreaking and superbly filmed and edited. The scenes with the old lady --Kathleen Harrison-- and her beloved dog, Johnny, were the sentimental segment that cemented the different episodes among these three women.
There is a crucial scene where the title "Turn the key softly" makes sense because it was dependent on that, that one of the protagonists could escape a cruel and unjust outcome. Even if nowadays the strings pulled in this movie to keep one interested in the story telling are too obvious, the film doesn't fail in entertaining one from beginning to end.
Since I read all these four stories, long ago, I found it interesting when seeing the film version on "You Tube", to watch it --a bit hesitant I must say-- but I was nicely surprised to see four excellent short movies condensing quite well those wonderful stories (when I read them I couldn't have had enough of Somerset Maugham's writing mastery and read, I think, most of his literary wealth, what a writer, what imagination!!).
I don't know if these stories could be made today as full length movies, probably not, since the argument's line is very subtle and to lengthen them it will involve adding superfluous material that will completely destroy those gossamer stories.
These four episodes are an excellent example of good, solid, English movie making, without any waste of time, first rate photography (Black and white) and sound, impeccable lighting and very professional actors, in all four segments, as good as the four directors involved in this project.
I would strongly recommend its viewing since the many messages conveyed in all the segments are a distilled essence of Mr. Maugham's varied experiences through his very long life and almost oriental wisdom that could become a welcome addition to our humbler lives.
Ingrid Bergman as Doris Day (Ingrid was more beautiful).
I read several previous reviews and agree with everything they say about this film being very entertaining, gorgeous leading protagonists, etc.
Once a friend of mine said to me "I'm OK with watching a film tonight, but PLEASE, don't make me watch an OLD film!!!". Watching this one made me recall that friend's plea, and understand it too.
1958 was the date in this case, and when you get to see the hypocritical social conventions those people lived --and dyed-- for, one trembles at the idea of conducting such type of living conditions...
The woman over twenty five, our leading lady (Bergman was 42 when she made this movie, but she represented 30, jaw-dropping beautiful) was constantly looking --and starting to get desperate-- for a... HUSBAND, because apparently to be single was one of the original Capital Sins at the time.
IF she found a candidate, it was verboten for her to be the one making overt declarations of love, even of amorous interest!
In this case she had a younger sister (Phyllis Calvert, born the same year Ingrid Bergman was born, and looking quite stunning herself) a sister that was more level headed but brainwashed also with all the prejudices of those days, that tried all the time to find a candidate for her unlucky sister (unlucky because she was getting on in years and wasn't married yet), creating some mildly funny dialogs.
Cary Grant's character suffered a similar persecution (it WAS a veritable, obsessive persecution at the time) from people asking him WHY wasn't he MARRIED and with children at HIS AGE... (he looked older than Bergman but was exceedingly handsome and incredibly elegant).
A fascinating detail of upper-crust luxury living we'll never experience was in that night scene where from the moment they leave the theater and start walking fully in love with each other and her chauffeured personal Rolls Royce --black and white-- silently and slowly keeps pace with them at their disposition whenever they could decide to stop walking...Wow!! (They arrived at her place walking all the way from the theater (she was a famous actress), totally oblivious of the Rolls, that stops silently in front of her building, its chauffeur waiting for new orders).
Since we discovered that Grant's character had the nerve to coldly lay out his theory of enjoying women without the responsibility of marriage and children suffocating his bachelor freedom, invents a wife impossible to divorce as a pretext to always escape any uncomfortable situations (why he cannot get a divorce, is never explained in the script) poor Bergman would be socially ostracized because they... HAD SEX!!! (not on the screen please, one only gathered that by seeing a softly closing door (bedroom door) with both of them behind it) and that scene dimming down to black, probably to allow you to recover your breath after watching such salacious and daring situation.
And since the male star protagonist of this kind of movies couldn't possibly end the film as a total villain (enjoying women without..., etc, etc.), everything is finally explained and they get happily married!! Isn't that nice? Wow! and I watched the whole concoction to the bitter end!!! (I was forced to, since a friend asked me very politely to watch this movie that previously he enjoyed immensely).
Yes, it was superbly played by everybody involved in the film, the sets were gorgeous, the women dresses were out of this world, everybody's manners SUPERB (from that point of view one aches to return to those gone with the wind days) but otherwise, compared with practically ANY contemporary movie... it's just another Doris Day movie, but with Ingrid Bergman replacing her.
One thing that stroke me from the very opening scene was the close up of those magnificent roses... being ARTIFICIAL FLOWERS!!! Same in another scene where he sends her a bouquet of flowers and they are again ARTIFICIAL!!!
Why? they worked with a superb budget, certainly could afford two dozen of beautiful REAL roses. I could only understand such a situation in the Latin American movies of the time, where we were accustomed to these type of faux pas as part of very-very low budget movie making, but unpardonable in a De Luxe Hollywood product.
Like in a Puerto Rican film with the Argentinian Libertad Leblanc as protagonist where she wears a sleeveless polyester déshabillé with the price ticket dangling from the gown's armhole!! (did they snatched it at a basement sale?!), leans over to smell the bouquet of flowers sent her by an admirer... and the flowers are...PLASTIC!! (it was a serious crime-drama film) we felt down from our seats screaming with laugher in utter delight!!
Basta! watch this movie for the beautiful people involved, the beautiful sets and even the beautiful fake flowers, but forget about real life situations because you won't find that here.
El misterioso tío Sylas (1947)
Uncle Silas and false eyelashes.
"Uncle Silas" (1864) was probably Sheridan Le Fanu's (Irish writer) masterpiece and his only work still read today. A macabre mystery novel and a classic of Gothic horror. Contrary to most of Le Fanu production, always dealing with ghosts and the supernatural, "Uncle Silas" deals only with real people, TOO REAL...
Translated and adapted to the big screen in 1947 by the Argentinian movie-making industry under two different titles: El misterioso tío Silas" (The Mysterious Uncle Silas) or "La telaraña" (The Spiderweb"), with Elisa Galvé as the naive young, vulnerable and unprotected newly heir to her father's fortune, relentlessly pursued by several shady characters under different pretenses only to grab her money.
There are good people that try to help her to get rid of those undesirables but... everybody seems to be so nice..
The storyline makes for an enjoyable film, shot in black and white and with a beautiful and very young Elisa Galvé who, for totally unknown reasons wears, during the whole movie, false eyelashes so outlandish they must have belonged to Sally Bowles ("Cabaret"), ruining with them her exquisite delicate features and the whole movie of course.
The little I know about the 19th century doesn't include enormous false eyelashes, especially on a rigidly educated high class young lady... This is a major flaw, followed by her wardrobe. A nightmare. Paco Jaumandreu was a very well known Argentinian dress designer (Eva Peron's close friend and confidant) but it seems that for period costumes he either didn't have the knack, the specialized workrooms or the documentation. All her dresses look like made last weekend with love by her aunt, that wasn't quite an expert with thread and scissors... Fortunately the black and white photography and shadowy sets conceal someway this Hellzapoppin' of a wardrobe.
The movie is watchable --no big shakes-- although some of the actors are wooden in a theatrical way and deliver their lines as if speaking from the pulpit. Elisa Galvé, surprisingly, was a very good actress. And so was María Santos (her personal maid), a character actress that at the time must have intervened in a thousand movies. "Silas" was AWFUL! Not to mention Galvé's "father"... (was the same actor playing two roles? the copy on "You Tube" was so bad that everything was quite out of focus. As I said on another review, Argentinian movies up to the seventies, are only to be watched by Argentinians...
La quintrala (1955)
A historic real life Chilean Character
Doña Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer was the real name of this QUINTRALA woman (nickname: Catrala, Catralita derived from Catalina, although others say she got it from a poisonous parasitic creeper native to Chile, the Quitral, whose branches she used to flog her slaves with.
The casting of Ana María Lynch for the role was PERFECT, the real historic figure could have, very well, looked like this actress; the real Catalina was famous for her beauty... and her horrendous cruelty. She was born in Chile in 1604 and died there at the very old age of (for that time standards) 61 years in 1665.
During the seventeen century she was the richest and most powerful WOMAN in the whole of Chile. Many books, articles, soap operas and this movie were produced thanks to her mythical figure in history. She was tall, redhead, with hypnotic green eyes and alabaster skin, a mixture of Caucasian -Spaniards and Germans- and South American Indians, making her one of the hottest sex spots in Santiago de Chile.
Sexual appeal that she put to use wasting no time when at seventeen she poisoned her father because he threatened to disinherit her and place her in a convent, due to her extreme impudent conduct (nowadays: Women's Liberation).
Semi-illiterate (at that time women were forbidden knowledge of any kind, only church, confession and mass every day) and with a tempestuous temper, member of the richest family in the country, landowners of enormous amounts of land and tons of slaves (typical of the seventeen century) she grew wild and free from any social convention, being one of the untouchables; la Quintrala was sadistic and abusive, torturing her slaves to death (also killing many of her lovers) and went through life free of any denunciation thanks to the enormous amounts of money she distributed among the clergy, government and judges.
It's obvious that if she died peacefully in bed at 61, she never paid at the end -as in those 1950s movies with a Happy Ending- for her life of debauchery.
This movie depicts quite well all those goings on with an excellent photography and all actors involved. It's a pity that the version offered on "You Tube" lacks many scenes, but it seems that that condition of this picture is what remains of it.
Very impressive the earthquake scenes!!
It shows, overwhelmingly, the heavy, sickening, "moral" religious atmosphere Chileans were immersed in at the time thanks to the catholic church (They ruled with an iron hand and their infamous Inquisition) when women were totally repressed, slavery was a daily habit and so was the lynching of slaves and other undesirables, all of it conveniently wrapped with the periodical religious processions destined to subjugate a totally ignorant population.
Very good film, although quite slow, dark (in subject matter and photography) but fascinating because of its real life character, who, nowadays, could be the icon of a new, sensational remake!!
You can watch this movie on "You Tube" and read (mesmerizing reading) La Quintrala's biography on Wikipedia!! Read it FIRST and then watch the movie.