DIRECTOR: CARLOS SAURA
COUNTRY: SPAIN 1991
SUPER FEATURES: Political Farce. Has odd funny moments. Twists of fate.
Carlos Saura has always been interested in dance, film, theatre, and many of the artistic forms which people have related to. He has depicted them in his films as a part of life, a very important part of life, that provides not only a spark, but also the means without which we are not capable of surviving.
It is no surprise, then, when this film deals with such a theme, and in a manner which is not pleasing, but this time, it is a compromise one has to make between life and death.
A pair of down on their luck actors, take up a small living, in exchange for food by providing entertainment for the troops (the republicans) that are fighting the forces supported by Mussolini, Hitler and Generalissimo Franco (the nationalists). When they are tired of a small town, and decide to go on to a larger place, life changes. While resting close to Valencia (their destination), they are approached by the advancing nationalists. They are arrested, and thrown in with all the others, only to be saved by an Italian commander who used to be a theatre director, and stage manager. He insists on the creation of material for his own troops, and all of a sudden the entertainers are forced to become real 'actors'. It's the only alternative to death. However, Carmella (the wife) has a bit of a big mouth and often speaks out, and this has a potential of getting them all in trouble. Needless to say, they don't win, or get very far, although the nationalists won all the battles and ruled until Franco's death in the seventies.
A bit of an oddity, for a script, it is acted, in the spirit of a fun farce, and play, but it is deadly serious, and the characters are in danger at all
All in all, it is a slow film, that requires the viewer's attention, because much of the dialogue is intended to create 'slips of the tongue' which is a
very good, and strong acting tool. However, this attitude, often gets all of them in trouble, though the italian commander, has a good enough sense of humor and understanding of things, to be able to disagree, and defend their position cleverly. And without, meaning to, both the audience, and the actors, are eventually forced, or resigned, to accept the inevitable solution. The life of the artists goes on. The art lives on. And a new government is now in power, though it got there by the gun.
A politically minded film, it really shows the sensitive side of an extremely volatile situation, and how one can deal with it, even if one disagrees with it. People do tend to stand up for life, given the choice. And the ensuing results are not always pleasant.
The acting is fun, and good. The film does not have much music in it, but it does have the political songs of the day, which at times are sung, and their lyrics keep the film moving. The subtitles, unfortunately do not do the original dialect any justice at all, so one really misses out on the actual flavor, and style of insulting an invading force, which renders the actors forced choice even more repugnant and disappointing. Taken out of the subtitles are the swearing, and the fowl language which these songs have. The actors' original opinion on the nationalists is not very far from a pile of excrement. The subtitle, doesn't even come close to telling us what was really said.
You may like to see this film, if you are a history buff, and have an interest in Spain, or if you want to practice your vernacular Castilian.
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