The Red Squirrel (1993)
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Like those films, The Red Squirrel is a multi-layered work rife with possible interpretations and elements of broad, Buñuelian surrealism that are at odds with the more recognisable presentation of reality established in the film's intriguing first half. On our initial viewing the plot can seem incredibly straightforward, revolving around the strange relationship between a suicidal former pop star and the mysterious, amnesiac woman who literally falls into his life. With this section of the film, Medem creates a truly unique modern-day thriller, building on elements of Hitchcock - most noticeably Vertigo (1957), with its iconographical depictions of mysterious blondes, shadowy villains, damaged heroes and seething paranoia - but intelligently subverting them by way of elements as diverse as Salvador Dali, the aforementioned Buñuel, low-budget B-movies, The Road Warrior (1980), elements of magical realism and ideas central to the Basque regional identity; again, drawing parallels with the hypnotic and self-reflexive world of Vacas. These subtle editions compliment the more recognisable characteristics of the romantic-thriller mystery story at the heart of the film to create something that is much more engrossing, enticing, and unique.
As the story progresses and we are drawn ever deeper into the film's central mystery, we begin to note the emergence of further plot influences, such as psychological horror, melodramatic eroticism, heart-stopping suspense, black comedy and eventually full-blown surrealism. As it does, the film then becomes much more complex, taking on issues of love, sexuality, mental and physical manipulation, mind-games and cinematic role-playing. Medem ties the whole thing together with some wonderful set pieces and a staggering use of cinematic style put together on an obviously limited budget. It isn't purely the imagination and intelligence of Medem that impresses us though; with every wild narrative U-Turn or directorial flourish - incorporating everything from Kiss Me Deadly (1955) to Raising Arizona (1987) - being backed up by the fine performances from lead actors Nancho Novo and Emma Suárez, both of whom manage to makes us care an enormous amount about these two protagonists and the relationship that forms between them.
Although it's always tempting to say that both Medem and his work is unlike anything else you will ever see; I think there are some obvious reference points here, many of which have been mentioned above, as well as a certain similar approach to filmmakers such Krzysztof Kieslowski - with the deep, meditative and vaguely hypnotic use of camera combined with the intricate presentation of a narrative driven by the purely psychological; most apparent for example in his epic TV series Dekalog (1989) and one of his greatest films, The Double Life of Veronique (1991) - and especially a filmmaker like Wong Kar-Wai, with the idea of the lead character's enigmatic pop song describing the narrative and the central location manipulating the story so as to take on more self-reflexive, metaphorical notions being very much in keeping with films such as like Happy Together (1997), In the Mood for Love (1999) and 2046 (2004).
As with much of Medem's work, including the 2001 erotic mystery thriller Sex and Lucia, the film uses much in the way of cinematic coincidences, with the various coincidences that form the basis of the plot acting as clues to the narrative. This turns the film into a wonderful example of cinematic storytelling, creating a real mystery for the audience in which all the pieces fall perfectly into place during the film's final act, but still leave us room for interpretation. Without question, this is a delightful cinematic experience that goes way beyond the limitations of film; elaborating on some of the complex ideas regarding narrative, time, character and spirit presented in Vacas, whilst simultaneously foreshadowing the ideas of escape, transcendence, imagination, eroticism and the notion of a story being written as it goes, which will all be further developed in Sex and Lucia. With this in mind, The Red Squirrel is an absolute marvel; an epic, ornate jigsaw-puzzle for the audience, and - without question - one of the greatest films of the 1990's.
Highly unusual and hugely entertaining. Buy it, watch it, spread the word.
Spanish production with fine acting , colorful cinematography , excellently interpreted and rousing score by Alberto Iglesias . Julio Medem directed the film for Sogetel and producer Enrique López Lavigne and it was released in 1993 . Set in San Sebastian or Donostia and at a lagoon in Pelayos De Presa , this interesting and thought-provoking film dealing with a story of solitary people , as a strange , unsettling young , well played by Nancho Novo , desperate after separating from his girlfriend , as well as a twenty-five-years-old girl riding a motorcycle and falling off a bridge , subsequently suffering amnesia , being splendidly performed by Emma Suarez . The picture was considered by the prestigious ¨Daily Telegraph¨ : as taut and intricate as anything by Alfred Hitchcock . This is a thrilling , exciting , deliberate though magnetic drama . It contains marvelous photography , breathtaking musical score and enjoyable production design . It is a riveting film though sometimes a little boring , slow-pace and overlong . Anyway, the film is interesting , thematically intriguing and strange ; Medem has his own style of telling a story . Very good support cast such as Maria Barranco , Chete Lera , Cristina Marcos ,Txema Blasco , Ana Gracia , Monica Molina and Karra Elejalde , Julio Medem's ordinary . Thrilling as well as sensitive musical score mirroring well the scenery, its people and the story line, it was superbly composed by several times Oscar nominated Alberto Iglesias , Julio Medem's usual . In addition , a spotless pictorial cinematography by Gonzalo Fernandez and a willingness , almost perfect of the elements of each shot , every sequence , every space ; being rightly filmed on location in Pelayos De la Presa, El Pardo , San Martín Valdeiglesias, Madrid, Usanos, Guadalajara and San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, País Vasco .
The motion picture was well produced by Fernado Garcillan and originally directed by Julio Medem ; this his second movie, "Ardilla Roja" or ¨The red squirrel¨ released in 1993, was selected for the Cannes Film Festival and it confirmed Medem's talents and won prizes in Fort Lauderdale, Bogota and Bucarest . Medem had been making short movies with a super-8 camera owned by his father until he received a call from a new production company called Sogetel and executive producers Fernando de Garcillán , José Luis Olaizola , Enrique López Lavigne . They were interested in his script titled "Vacas" . It won the Goya Award from the Spanish academy for best new director, and won prizes in the festivals of Tokyo, Torino and Alexandria. In 1998 Medem released " The lovers of the Polar Circle ," considered his best movie by most of his fans . It also became a box-office hit with more than one million spectators in Spain and was also released worldwide. In 2001 his fourth movie, "Lucia and sex ," became a huge hit and began the career of actress Paz Vega who won the Goya for best new actress . Although in 2003 failed with the release , "The Basque ball" , a documentary that portrays the phenomenon of nationalism and terrorism in the Basque Country of northern Spain , it was very polemical and partial . In 2007 directed the flop ¨Caotica Ana¨ and in 2010 , ¨Room in Rome¨, a successful though with not sense film , plenty of nudism and only starred by two gorgeous naked girls . Julio Medem is for sure one of the the most important and original Spanish filmmaker. Well worth watching if you get the chance .
A seriously clever and duplicidous female lead Emma Suarez goes off with him. Never a dull moment, of course I do love listening to foreign langauges- quite an incentive in this film perhaps. The music is really good and perfect for the mood of the film including the constant reference to his former bands main song and his past love.
That bit towards the end with the car stunt is hilarious. I wish they made more films like this (maybe they do, I don't know, terrestrial TV doesn't show many foreign films unfortunately).
"La Ardilla Roja" is a weird and entertaining love story, with an original and surrealistic screenplay and bizarre characters and situations. The gorgeous Emma Suárez has a stunning performance and shows a great chemistry with the odd and unusual Jota, performed by Nancho Novo. The climax with the arrival of Felix to the camp site is strange and a little disappointing, but the happy end fits well to the plot. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Esquilo Vermelho" ("The Red Squirrel")
Perhaps the most lushly romantic thriller of the decade, even though Julio Medem's 1993 classic noir thriller "The Red Squirrel" failed to find a distributor in North America, it did manage to find its way onto screens at almost every major Film Festival on the continent, and found its audience that way.
By turns warmly funny, thrilling in the classic sense of the genre, human and humane in a way that you rarely find in film, Julio Medem never makes a false move in his direction of the film, never telegraphs its action, "The Red Squirrel" remaining true to itself, true to its audience and a true classic for those of us who have not given into the, for want of a better phrase, Gen X cynicism which has swept across our social and cultural landscape for much of this past decade.
Available on video (finally!), "The Red Squirrel" would make perfect accompaniment to Mr. Medem's newest film, "Lovers of the Arctic Circle".
Absolutely a worthwhile rental, more than a worthy film to revive on the big screen (please!), and (honestly) my favourite film of the decade.
Great to know that Medem will be delivering more inspiring movies :-)))
9 out of 10.
This starts innocently - you're pretty sure that you understand what's going on (Jay is trying to replace his lost girlfriend by naming this lose woman that she is his Lisa and giving her all the memories he wants). However as the film goes on it becomes less clear. The director fills the film with flashbacks of Jay's memories of his girlfriend and his music video, and flashbacks of Lisa's memories combined with a squirrel eyes view of the forest.
As the film continues these flashbacks etc are continually intercut with the main film and separate elements (the hit and run driver, the night time radio slots, the doctor) all get tied into the main story. During the film it's all very exhilarating because you don't fully understand what's going on but you know that all the elements are coming together towards an amazing conclusion. Unfortunately it doesn't deliver at the end - as the strands start to come together the film does start to link up - but it links up with unbelievable, coincidental connections. Rather than having a thrilling tidy conclusion in collapses into symbolism and abstract images and actions.
Emma Suarez steals the show as the complex Lisa, she manages to be believable even when the other actors and surrounding situations seem ridiculous. The director does an excellent job injecting a sense of urgency and confusion into a seemingly straight forward story. Although it does being meaningless arty rubbish in the last 20 minutes, everything that goes before is a consistently visually amazing story.
This is definitely worth watching once - but the final 20 minutes will either frustrate you (if you like logical meaningful endings) or amaze you (if you're into abstract arty stuff!).
Jota is a young Spanish man, on the literal brink of suicide. A failed musician and lover who sees no future, he stands on the top of a bridge and prepares to jump. From nowhere, a motorcyclist appears, and races off the bridge, crashing heavily below. He goes to the wreckage while an ambulance is called and sees that the rider is a beautiful young women. When he goes with her to the hospital he says he is her boyfriend so that he can stay with her. The doctors say she will recover, but that she has suffered total amnesia. The doctors hope that Jota will be able to awaken her memories, believing he is her boyfriend, so he goes to her and acts the part. She does not remember, but they leave together. Jota decides to invent her life and their past, calling her Lisa, making her into his old girlfriend, Vertigo style and she goes along with it. Soon they are in love, and they decide to go on holiday to the Red Squirrel camp site. However, there both Lisa and Jota's motive's and pasts become less clear as fragments of memories blur with the present, and startling imagery surrounds them. They meet a family at the camp and spend time with them. They have their own problems which gradually rise into view, and Lisa acts strangely around them, in a powerfully erotic manner towards their son, and as a strong-willed women to their daughter. Soon a mysterious man appears who claims to know Lisa, and the lies soon begin to fall apart. Did Lisa know all along that Jota was lying, so she could escape the past? Was Jota trying to pave over the mistakes of the past, or did he have more sinister plans? And who is this new guy? The film descends into surrealism with funny parts, and plain, mind-bogglingly absurd scenes before coming to a close. There is much visual invention throughout the film, which becomes chaotic towards the climax, with that inexplicable '3rd arm punch' being the highlight. There is a tone of mistrust and paranoia throughout the film- we don't trust any of the characters just like they do not trust each other. Apparently Kubrick felt this was one of the best films he had ever seen, and it has much in common with much of his work, both visually and thematically. It draws more comparisons clearly with Vertigo, showing the same attention to symbolism which can be discussed till the end of time. Emma Suarez is perfect as Lisa, one of the best Spanish actresses alive, and Novo is also excellent as the plotting, pity-inducing and paranoid Jota. The only real faults to be found are that it maybe moves too slowly, will deceive everyone, and that the main part of the film is such a jigsaw that the makers and the audience have difficulty trying both to decipher everything in the last part and have a suitable ending. Not everything is answered, but that is the way it should be, and while the ending is satisfying, there is always that lingering suspicion in our minds that the story is far from over.
8 out of 10
"Vacas", "La ardilla roja", "Tierra", "Los amantes del Círculo Polar" and "Lucía y el sexo" are his best movies from my humble point of view.
The movie is absolutely dream-like from beginning to end. The plot is rather creative, and could have been based on a true story except its surreal features which are also mixed with comedy situations. One of the most original love stories I've seen so far.
Music is totally absorbing and helps to get into Medem's Visual imagery.
Emma Suárez is beautiful. She reminds me a little of Elizabeth Hurley. I loved the scene in which she asks the Felix character, "Don't you want to feel me" and then after that she says "Now it'll bite you". Don't miss it, it was awesome. The sexual tension between various characters is unique, I have noticed that in various movies from Spain. If any of the readers want to recommend some other Spanish movies for me, I would appreciate it.
I did enjoy watching this film, and was intrigued from beginning to end - I found the two main characters particularly interesting. However, I don't think it all holds together. The mystery and suspense behind Lisa's past is built up falsely - it certainly was not a major shock in the end as it had been pointed to frequently in the course of the film. A few questions regarding her past still remain unanswered at the end.
Of course, these are criticisms of the plot - and not of the film as a whole. Yet this film was a plot driven one, the revelation not as earth-shattering as Julio Medem had probably intended. As for romance...? I find Jay's pretenses and "Lisa's" actions little ground for true romance.
I hope I am not being too critical - perhaps I was expecting more to be resolved. I would certainly not like to put anyone off seeing this film. It was wonderfully filmed and I am sure I will have a look at it again, but in the end, I believe it is an inferior work to Julio Medem's earlier film, "Vacas".
Made with a modest budget, 'La Ardilla Roja' is skillfully executed. The cinematography, lighting and visuals create a very recognizable world and yet the way it's presented contributes to the element of surrealism. The score is used efficiently and the acting is superb, especially that of Emma Suárez, Nancho Novo and María Barranco.
His proceeding releases only prove that Julio Medem is getting better and better with each film. 'La Ardilla Roja' is not one to be missed
Shame my VCR is broken so I can not review this fine pic soon again but next time its on I will be with it, too.
Strongly recommended - 8/10*
Are you afraid of women who know what they want, that are not created by you?
To cut to the chase, I genuinely enjoyed watching The Red Squirrel. The story for the most part is unpredictable, and ticks along, never becoming boring.
As you probably know, the story starts off with a guy standing on a bridge at night, looking down at the crashing waves, wanting to throw himself off. His suicidal thoughts are interrupted by a motorbike loosing control, smashing through the bridge barrier, onto the beach below. As luck would have it, the motorbike was being ridden by the rather pretty Emma Suárez. The crash victim appears to be amnesiac as a result of the accident, which opens the door for what follows - a love story come mystery.
The entire cast play their parts naturally, which is something that adds so much to the experience. There was not a single cast member when I'd wish someone else was playing the part.
I experienced The Red Squirrel on the Tartan DVD release. Picture quality is fine, not exceptional. With a story such as The Red Squirrel, picture quality somehow means less, unlike it would with a film that relies on style over substance.
If like me you like foreign language films and don't mind subtitles, I can recommend The Red Squirrel