Category Archives: Film

Do Not See: The Oxford Murders

We were really looking forward to this film. It’s set in the town I grew up in (there’s a clue in the title), has a pretty good cast (John Hurt, Elijah Wood, Leonor Watling) and is directed by Alex de la Iglesia, who so perfectly depicted the horrors of living in a Madrid apartment building in La Comunidad.

So, what went wrong? Here are the top 3 disasters:

  • With the exception of John Hurt, who can probably act his way out of the worst script on earth, all of the performances were painfully flat.
  • The script is almost certainly to blame for this. I suspect it started out in Spanish… and that Google Translator may have come up with the final English version.
  • We weren’t allowed to work a thing out for ourselves. Every painful twist in the plot (people die, mathematical series may hold the key) had to be deliberately explained.

With the exception of young men who probably feel that seeing Leonor Watling in nothing but a kitchen apron is worth the price of admission alone (and Alex de la Iglesia may have been banking on this), there really is nothing to recommend this film at all. What a shame. It had all the makings of the kind of blockbuster that could have added a little shine to Spain’s spiraling film industry.

(God it’s hard writing film reviews at midnight on a Sunday night… I wish South of Watford had seen it first then I could have just linked to one of his great reviews instead! Still, I hope you get the message. The film was pretty crap. Apart from the apron scene. But don’t tell Marina I said that.)

What’s your all-time favourite, or worst, film from Spain?

Las aventuras del Capitán Alatriste – Coming to a cinema near you?

Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s famous series of books comes to the big screen in Spain. My sister-in-law’s verdict: a bit convoluted and not always easy to know what is going on… Oh well, if you like slightly confusing historical masterpieces, here’s one to watch out for!

Pérez-Reverte is however a fine author who loves tangling with Spain’s complicated historical past. If you want to check out one of his novels in translation, The Fencing Master, a tale of political intrigue and wonderful sword fights in 19th Century Madrid, is a great place to start.

Spanish film… Introducing: Torrente!

TorrenteWhy is it that all Spanish women seem to hate the hard drinking, fat, womanising, disaster of a chauvinist cop known only as Torrente? For all those reasons no doubt. What is there to love about a figure who spends half his life in puti-clubs, calls his dog Franco, Moroccans ‘Moros‘, and refers to South Americans as a genetic degeneration of the Spanish master race? The reason Torrente is so often disliked is that he is so representative of the worst possible kind of Spanish male.

He’s a medallion wearing, bigoted, lecherous drunk. As a policeman he’s corrupt to the core. But once you accept that, you begin to see the Torrente films as classic works of Spanish cinema, and hilariously funny ones at that. Santaigo Segura, who directs and plays Torrente himself, has managed to perfectly caricature the worst side of backward thinking Spain and Spanish pride.

The second film, Torrente 2, is the finest, largely due to the classic role of Gabino Diego as Torrente’s junkie side kick. Once you accept Torrente for what he is, then a wonderful parody of the deviant side of the Spanish national character is there for the taking.

Classic Film: Thesis

  An edge-of-your-seat look at the snuff movie phenomenon and a real Spanish classic. A young student at a university in Madrid is preparing her thesis on screen violence when she accidentally comes across a terrifying video of a sadistic murder. Is there a link between this and the girls that have been disappearing from her college over the last few years? And which one of the two new men in her life is hiding a dark secret? So good its a wonder Hollywood hasn’t re-made it yet…
Pick up a copy at: (Europe) (USA)

El Lobo

  Eduardo Noriega stars in this gripping true-story film about a police informant that infiltrates ETA and helps the police achieve one of their most important historical attacks on the group’s internal structure. Action packed, moving, passionate, (with the obligatory doses of highly-charged sex that few Spanish films go without…) Highly recommended if you like a bit of historical political intrigue.
Pick up a copy at: (USA)

The Motorcycle Diaries

Not directly about Spain, but certainly in Spanish and more than worthy of a mention here. The Motorcycle Diaries is the wonderful tale of the transformation of Ernest Guevara, the young, ambitious doctor specialising in Leprosy, into the inimitable Che of Cuban fame. Crossing South America from bottom to top on a classic Norton motorcycle with his friend, Alberto Granado, the scenes of social injustice he witnesses effect profound changes on his character.

This is a deeply inspiring film (you’ll either feel like changing the world, or traveling it on a motorbike by the end), with fine acting from the two protagonists, and stellar appearances from the stunning South American landscapes.

Pick up a copy at: (Europe) / (USA)

Sex and Lucia

  One of the most erotic films to have come out of Spain in the last few years. Paz Vega is dazzling as the sensuous girl who falls in love with a troubled young writer. A clever, twisting story and beautifully shot scenes of Madrid and the island wastes of Formentera make this a classic piece of cinema.
Pick up a copy at: (Europe) (USA)

Jamon Jamon

  Everyone trashes Jamon Jamon, but it’s one of Ben’s all time favourite Spanish films. Plenty of ham, naked bullfighting, deserted Castillian landscapes, adultery, a brothel, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. What more could you ask for? So Spanish, so funny, this is a classic piece of cinema. As the cover says, “A film where women eat men and men eat ham.”
Pick up a copy at: (Europe) (USA)