This colorful feature debut from experienced producer Luis Miñarro offers an almost hallucinatory look at the world of Amadeo of Savoy, who was king of an ungovernable Spain for two years around 1870. This intriguing episode is transformed into a plea for beauty, creativity and joy. The film functions as a metaphor for contemporary Spain and its ongoing state of crisis.Written by
Falling star is a very refreshing digression. It's full of trickery and has an irreverent and Arcadian attitude.
The movie centres around King Amadeo I of Spain, and the farcical position in which he found himself. Invited to become the Spanish monarch by General Prim he travels from his ducal seat in Italy to practically live under house arrest for his entire reign after the assassination of his sponsor on the eve of his coronation. Amadeo's father was the King of Sardinia, later of Italy, and he'd been brought up to be a ruler, trained all his life. He is tolerated by those who use him for he knows not what and all his grand plans for Spain entirely ignored. He chooses to remain in this gilded cage, who knows why, perhaps he stubbornly believed that the mandarins would change their minds, that he was to be to Spain what Charles II was to England, that he could march into parliament and shoo the bickerers away.
The film is really very funny, both in very obvious ways and also in very subtle ways. María Victoria, Amadeo's queen, makes the statement that she likes Spain because it looks like it does in paintings, and of course the joke is that Luis Miñarro spent a great deal of effort constructing the film using Spanish paintings, Goya's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London being a key go to, Velazquez also being mentioned in the credits. Giggle-worthy incidents with fruit and also the use of 20th Century music at points delight and surprise.
I mentioned trickery, which is not always obvious, but very interesting once you work it out, and I'm sure I missed many examples. One amusing point is that whilst he is meant to be stuck in Spain, away from his home in Italy, the castle of his internment is actually an Italian castle. The carriage that brings him and his wife to this castle actually has no horses (listen for the clip clop of hooves in vain). These points are very deliberate, as are numerological elements in the film that were an homage to Amadeo's predilection for freemasonry.
One can simply enjoy Luis Miñarro's eye for wondrous objets d'art. He shows a pair of grisaille panels respectively with yearning corn sheaves that drag you deep into an idealised pastoral summer and two horses frolicking together (Amadeo manages to briefly get stuck between the panels, hehe). He put a close-up on a vase with a Fragonardian couple that took my breath away.
Luis Miñarro referred to this film himself as tutti frutti, and it's exactly that, it has a bit of everything, the staggering depth of the Wagner's Prelude to Act 3 of Tristan and Isolde, romance, idealism, pranking, tragedy, surrealism.
It is delicious to my soul to see a man in his seventh decade making a film like this, shedding his background as a producer to emerge as a beautiful butterfly, making this movie was practically an act of philanthropy on his part.
I find myself almost cataloguing the beauty of this film in desperation not to forget a single moment of it. There are still shots and phantom rides of clouds sometimes with artificial colour, at one point the sky was a delicious peach colour (both the ochres and purples of a peach) another it was like lemonade. Lola Dueñas, who is almost ten years older than me at 42, manages nonetheless to produce quite the most seductive of characters and contributes in spades to the sensual trance that is Stella Cadente.
It's worth not forgetting that the movie has political relevance to today, where you might say that there are many political opportunists with no vision for taking the country forward, and access to credit is limited (Amadeo is at the mercy of bankers). Those with Utopian visions (talking trees aside) such as Amadeo ignored.
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