Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Life is shit in Cuba.

This is the main feeling you get after watching this drama made with Spanish money and filmed in Puerto Rico.

Two friends, who often meet playing soccer together, feel attracted to each other, but can’t really share their love with the outside world. Yosvani lives with his girlfriend in her father’s comfortable house: Reinier lives with his wife and baby and mother-in-law in a shabby apartment. The latter is the most interesting character: gambler and soccer player by day, prostitute by night. Too bad the actor (and the director) didn’t make him more compelling and appealing. The former is less interesting: a troubled closeted and naive dreamer. Strangely enough he gets all the sympathy.

The story is captivating and shocking at times (the mother-in-law acts like a pimp and encourages Reinier to go fuck rich Europeans and bring home the money) and it’s okay to show the reality of the popular tourist destination, but in order to digest it well you need humor at times and some action. There are some moments of fun (at the fair and at the beach), but the sadness outweighs the happiness.

If you want to feel miserable watching other people be miserable, then this is your movie!

Diamantes Negros – **1/2

Posted: February 19, 2014 in 2013, Drama, Mali, Spain, Sportsdrama, XX1/2

There’s a lot of misery in this Spanish movie about the ongoing trade of minor soccer players from Africa. It’s incredibly depressing and makes you very angry at this scandalous business. You can’t blame the African kids who dream of world stardom and easily trust any scout that promises to bring them to Europe. You can only blame the scrupulous businessmen who treat their new recruits as disposable products if they don’t deliver. And you can blame the commercial game of soccer which creates these dreams and opens doors for crooks to bring on new talent.

I am not a soccer fan, apart from the fact that is a uniting game played in almost every single culture all over the world and thus an easy subject understand other societies. That’s what makes this movie appealing to a large audience. The storyline may be predictable and quite simple, but never bores and it allows for some cultural education as well. There is even room for (intercultural) humour.

The story focuses on two childhood friends from Mali who get recruited by a Spanish talent scout. They have to invest a lot of money to get the opportunity to leave for Europe, but their family and local society are convinced they will pay it back one day. So off they go to Madrid where they encounter Western Society with all its up and downs.

The two actors are obviously new to the acting business but they perform well. One is exited and nervous about the adventure and does not want to disappoint his family. The other has more talent, but is more reserved and cautious. Both are in for an emotional roller coaster ride of good and bad surprises. They carry the movie and make it worth the watch.

The Impossible – **1/2

Posted: December 28, 2012 in 2012, Disaster, Drama, Spain, XX1/2

Eight years ago a tsunami hit Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives and other South Eastern countries. It’s one of those shocking moments in life that make you realize how fragile we still are. I don’t really remember where I was when I heard the news, but I remember how devastated I was seeing the images in the aftermath.

And now there’s a movie, produced and made in Spain but staring an English-speaking cast, that will draw all those people to the cinema, who want to know what really happened there. It’s based on a true story about a family of five getting separated by the tsunami and hoping for the impossible to reconnect. It’s very dramatic, but the fact that it’s a true story makes it acceptable. The tsunami scenes are impressive and it’s very emotional when certain family members reunite. This is a perfect example of a good drama with all the ingredients that  you get taught at the movie directing school. It’s just missing that extra originality that makes a good movie great. And there are a few scenes that are unintentionally funny when they should scare or touch you emotionally. Like when Ewan McGregor makes a phone call home for instance. Not your best acting, mate!

The stand out performance in this movie is not coming from Naomi Watts, but from the young Tom Holland who absolutely steals every single scene he’s in. Not since Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot did a young kid perform this good.

A man takes a plane to Ushuaia to scatter the ashes of his diseased wife on the exact location of where they first met. After he checks in at the hotel, he watches an item on tv about people peacefully dying in the snow. In the room next door is a stewardess who arrived on the same flight and fears of being pregnant. She also falls asleep watching the same tv show. Both meet the next day in a snowy landscape supposedly trying to commit suicide individually. They decide to go back and hang out. A bit like La Fille Sur Le Pont, but then filmed on a low-budget in the southernmost part of Argentina.

I always feel bad dissing a low-budget movie, but sometimes it’s SO obvious that it starts to annoy. It’s like the movie team was in Ushaia for 5 days when the weather was bad and they only had three or four locations where they could film. Every scene could only be recorded in one take, preferably at night. And preferably ten minutes long. You can make a good movie with those limitations, but then the story should be different. If I start watching a movie taking place in Ushuaia where people intend to die slowly just by letting themselves be caught by the cold of a snow storm, then I want to see snow. I want to see a white glare on the screen. Not something grey. Unfortunately a lot of the poetry that couldn’t be visualized is read out in a voice over. I’m sure it’s very poetic in Spanish, but the beauty was lost in translation. Even the jokes were very linguistic and didn’t translate well. But the main problem why I didn’t like this movie that much is that there was no passion in this love story. I just didn’t believe that these two strangers were supposed to meet and find each other. Sorry

Chico & Rita – **

Posted: February 20, 2012 in 2010, Animation, Spain, UK, XX

Nominated for an Oscar (in the animation category), but having totally escaped from my radar: Chico & Rita, a romantic animation movie from Spain about two Cuban artists who met in the late forties and got separated by the revolution. I watched it at a friend’s place, who’s Cuban and who had a copy with no subtitles. Luckily it’s a romantic story and it has a lot of music, so I could easily understand what it was all about and also appreciate it.

I don’t really understand why it got nominated though. Sure, it’s hand drawn animation, which in times of stop motion and 3D is quite unique. But the story is so simple and predictable that you wonder what the fuzz is all about. Yes, the soundtrack is amazing. Yes, it’s pretty daring with all the (female) nudity. Yes, the drawings are a nice change. But in the end, it’s just a story about a man and a woman who were meant to be with each other but didn’t because of all kinds of circumstances. And the drawings are really not all that impressive. This should be a passionate movie, but the animation isn’t passionate at all. I know there’s an audience who will disagree (hey, there’s even animation porn), but it just failed to deliver for me.  Both Chico and Rita have vulva looking lips and do strange things with their eyes. Not attractive at all.

But, I hadn’t seen a similar animation movie yet and it really isn’t a bad movie at all. Plus: it gives a great impression of how Havana must have been like before the revolution! And I’ve purchased the soundtrack in the mean time.

Tambien La Lluvia – **1/2

Posted: May 19, 2011 in Drama, Spain, XX1/2

Saw this movie by chance today. Had time to go to the cinema and this is the one they played. Had heard/read nothing about it and that’s what I like about movies. Sometimes, you can still discover cinema on your own!

The story is simple. A film crew who is filming a movie about Christopher Columbus’ negative story in Bolivia, gets entangled in the fight of the locals against a big commercial water company that is stealing their own water resources. It’s actually quite interesting to see the similarities between what happened 500 years ago and what is happening now. Oppression then was for gold. Oppression now is for water. Even the film crew is hypocrite. They want to make a movie about how Columbus exploited the natives, but they are actually exploiting the locals as well. Paying them very little for acting like extras for instance.

It’s very interesting until the end when members of the film production start to realize what they are doing. Actually the odd thing is that the opinions from the crew members change constantly throughout the movie. Are they supportive or not supportive of the locals fight against the water company? You never really know for sure. Until the end, when some characters takes a stand. But by then you’ve lost support yourself. Just like the movie within the movie, there is no clear end to the story. But 3/4 of the movie is great. The acting especially is very good. Even Gabriel Garcia Bernal isn’t annoying.

Yeah, I can recommend this movie. Well done.

Goya’s Ghost – *

Posted: January 24, 2011 in biopic, Drama, Spain, USA, X