Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Spanish-Language Movies

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join the party by picking three movies that fit the week's criteria and writing a bit about them - it's fun and easy!

I'll admit. This was a hard one. So many films I wanted to pick aren't technically in Spanish, but rather Portugese. And one that I was going to pick (Under the Same Moon), had a pretty good amount of English in it, too (but it's SO. GOOD. despite the fact that it was marketed like an utterly average, overly sentimental melodrama). I wish I had more knowledge of older Spanish films - there are plenty on my list (Spirit of the Beehive, Cria Cuervos..., The Exterminating Angel, etc.), but there are simply too many films and too little time, especially recently! So we had to go all recent this week, but if you haven't seen these, you really need to do so. ASAP.

Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, 2004) Catalina Sandino Moreno deservedly got an Oscar nomination for her debut performance in this tight-as-a-drum thriller-cum-character study. Seventeen year-old Colombian Maria is working in what is basically a sweatshop to help support her family. When she dares to feel that she is being treated unfairly, she quits. And then finds out she's pregnant. And since she and her boyfriend don't love each other, she doesn't want to get married. What's a girl to do? Well, in this case, become a drug mule. Marston's incredible debut feature can be difficult to watch at times, but it is always compelling - both deeply humane and never, ever sentimental. Somehow, this works despite Marston (who also wrote the script) being about as far from the experiences of these characters as humanly possible. The film resists at every turn becoming an even slightly lesser version of itself, finding a perfect avatar in Sandino Moreno's perfect face, which remains hardened and implacable even as her eyes show you everything that's going on inside.

Timecrimes (Nacho Vigalondo, 2007) And now, for something completely different. Vigalondo's film follows an ordinary man who catches a mysterious bandaged man spying on him, and yadda yadda yadda ends up as the crux of a time travel paradox for the ages. Under close scrutiny, Timecrimes may fall apart just as most time travel tales do, but I actually think, given the explanations in the film's science, that it really may in fact hold together. But putting that aside for the moment, this is one hell of a ride, truly thrilling in every possible way. I'm honestly shocked an American version hasn't happened yet.

Undertow (Javier Fuentes-Léon, 2009) What would you do if you were forced to live a lie? To be with someone you may love, but not with your TRUE love? What would you do if your true love then died? And what would you do if they then came back to you as a ghost? From this conceit, Undertow spins pure cinematic gold. I can't say enough great things about this quietly gorgeous film. It is, quite simply, perfect.

15 comments:

  1. I love Maria Full of Grace. Went with it, myself. I've been meaning to see both of the others. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. I think you'll really like Timecrimes.

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  2. UNDERTOW!!!!!!! I LOVE that movie so much! I thought of it as well but had already used it during a previous week on ghosts. Such a delicate, beautifully realized film. I remember it was Peru's entry for Best Foreign Film that year and made the long list but missed an actual nomination which is a shame, it was worthy. Cristian Mercado is so brilliant in the lead.

    I watched Maria Full of Grace when I was trying to see all the Best Actress nominees and Catalina Sandino Moreno was excellent in the film but I can't say I loved the movie. Still it was a worthwhile view.

    I've never heard of Timecrimes but it sounds intriguing. I'm always on the lookout for new titles so I'll have to add it to my list.

    This was a tough week, I haven't seen that many Spanish films and a few of the ones I have, like Undertow, I've used other weeks. So I had to cast around quite a bit and watched my third specifically for this.

    Before Night Falls (2000)-Based on the writings of Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas this film spans his lifetime through his country youth, embracing of the Revolution and his later persecution as a writer and openly gay man in Castro's Cuba, his escape in the Mariel Harbor exodus of 1980, exile and death in the United States. Not a pleasant film but worthwhile. Javier Bardem is staggering in the lead, earning a well-deserved Oscar nomination.

    Burnt Money (2000)-Argentine action thriller about two violent bank robbers who are also lovers, a bank job they pull that goes wrong and the pursuit and standoff that follows. Very erotic for this type of action film, based on actual events.

    Tristana (1970)-Luis Buñuel directed this murky tale of emotional battery and vicious score settling. Tristana (Catherine Deneuve) is orphaned and taken under the protection of respected elder Don Lope (Fernando Rey). He takes advantage of the situation and makes her a virtual prisoner while demoralizing her to break her spirit, eventually the tables are turned in an unexpected fashion. Good acting by Deneuve, Rey and Franco Nero but the characters are ultimately all a pretty loathsome bunch to care too deeply about.

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    1. Timecrimes is rather strange in some ways but I had fun with it. I know you adore Undertow and I've kicked myself for not picking it in the past, so when I saw this week's theme I knew it simply had to be one of my picks. All three of the leads are great, and the scenery is just stunning, as is what they do with the conceit of the story. So, so beautiful.

      All three of yours are on my list of things to see, with Burnt Money on top and Tristana on bottom (I want to see all of Bunuel's films in order for some reason I can't really explain). Good GOD do I love every single one of Tristana's major stars, though!

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  3. I haven't seen any of these but they all sound interesting, and Maria Full of Grace is already on my watchlist.

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    1. They're all good, but in very VERY different ways.

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  4. Oh man how did I forget Maria Full of Grace? That film was great. I haven't seen the other two, though I think I have Undertow somewhere in my Netflix queue.

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    1. I honestly figured Maria and All About My Mother would be the big picks of the week. See Undertow as soon as possible - it's so freaking beautiful.

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  5. Maria Full of Grace has been mentioned a few times already, means its certainly worth a watch. Timecrimes sounds pretty cool.

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    1. Maria Full of Grace is truly incredible. Timecrimes is a LOT of fun.

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  6. Haven't seen the latter two - but Timecrimes sound brilliant!

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    1. Timecrimes is quite a ride. Definitely see the other two, too.

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  7. Undertow looks like a really great movie and I would like to see that one. Maria sounds quite good as well but not surE about the othe film...sounds a little nutty.

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    1. Undertow is so beautiful. See it! Maria is excellently done though difficult to watch. Nutty is a pretty good word to describe Timecrimes.

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  8. I've been wanting to watch Timecrimes a long time. It and Primer gets mentioned a lot when time travel movies are talked about. Seen Primer, so it's just Timecrimes now.

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