I was pleasantly surprised by this Spanish film about two young artists trying to make ends meet in Madrid. They share a comedy act that they perform in bars, for which they improvise costumes themselves, using cheap materials and means. The result is rather shabby, but that's part of its charm. Unfortunately, their creative project isn't very financially rewarding, so they each depend on other side jobs. Charleen (Carmita Morales) performs naked behind a window at a seedy peep show club called Mundo Fantástico (Fantastic World). Susana (Sonia Barba) works as a clown at children's parties and as a drawing and photography model. Both seem professionally unsatisfied and try to figure out how to improve their situation. Like their comedy act in the movie, the film Mundo Fantástico is a low budget production that relies on the way that Susana and Charleen's characters compliment each other. The former has a magnetic, charismatic personality, while the latter successfully projects an aura of despondence, getting her share of attention in the shadows of the peep show club, a place where she seems to bask with a certain artistic freedom in her depression. Figuratively speaking, if the two formed a band, Susana would play the lead guitar and Charleen the bass. Morales is one of the producers of the film, which perhaps gives this story of artistic ambition a meta quality. The gritty, naturalistic style of the film reminds me a bit of John Cassavetes' aesthetic, but it's even more bare, less glamorous. It all feels extremely real and unpolished. I don't believe it would work as well as a Hollywood remake or even in the hands of a glossier, more exuberant Pedro Almodóvar. It's a little gem and I'm glad to have run into it.
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