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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Spanish Film Festival - Barrie Pattison grapples with THE MIST AND THE MAIDEN (Andrés M. Koppel) and BIGAS X BIGAS (Bigas Luna, Santiago Garrido Rua)

In the current Spanish film season, Andrés M. Koppel’s La niebla y la doncella/The Mist and the Maiden looked promising - a cop film in the, to us, exotic location of La Gomera,  one of the smaller Canary Islands and with  a great cast to carry it.

After a police chase through island road tunnels filling with fog, Guardia Civil team Verónica Echegui and Robert Alamo find the van whose seat  back is soaked in blood. Echegui has been on our radar since Bigas Luna’s 2006 Yo soy la Juani/My Name Is Juani and has gotten even more gorgeous. Her island cop character becomes the centre of the piece though the original story is part of a series featuring the Quim Gutierrez & Aura Garrido characters, here Madrid head office fuzz brought in to re-open the murder investigation in which a local politico was found not proven guilty three years back. 

The cell phone image of the politico’s fourteen year old daughter having rough sex with the victim is part of the inquiry.  Teniente Roberto Alamo (Que Dios nos perdone) takes a dim view of the suggestion that his old case wasn’t properly handled.  

Sergeant Gutiérrez gets sea sick on the ferry.  The mother of the boy found with his throat cut asks for Echegui to be recalled because she was the one to show sympathy for the family. Echegui’s meeting with Alamo’s hostile, pregnant wife kicks off with her telling the woman she isn’t there to screw her husband again. Gutiérrez’s interview with the victim’s mother leaves him conflicted. “If I have to tell Margarethe her son was killed because he was an idiot and a dealer, I want to be sure.” 

The setting generates striking locations - clammy forests, the long cement pier and the homes and businesses in a community where everyone knows things they shouldn’t about their neighbors, a group so small that they have to send to Tenerife for their narcotics. We are already into a twisty atmosphere that comes close to Marshland.    

The city team peel layer after layer off the accepted facts until the late occurring black screen over which Gutiérrez gets a ‘phone call that turns the case round. This is a game changer but the film can’t meet the higher expectations it generates and we are left with an unsettling whodunit notable for its pessimistic view, where family is as toxic as drug dealing and vice. It’s not quite as convincing or ingenious as it needs to be but it’s still a good work out for the thriller form.

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The Spanish Film Festival has decided to single out Bigas Luna for a half-hearted tribute. Well we can be grateful it’s not Kaurismaki or freaking Fassbinder.

We get three films from the nineties which SBS long ago beat into submission and the video diary compilation Bigas X Bigas. This one is not something that supports being shown in a theatre. It’s the kind of item that you would expect the participants to play on the wall at wrap parties. Jonas Mekas used to make them with Warhol and John & Yoko in the nineties.

The Bigas film is gummed together from home movies, illustrated graphics and audition material from his features. This does give us glimpses of Javier Bardem, Leonor Watling, Candela Peña and Jorge Perugorría whose story about the Cubans who became fond of the pig they raised to eat on December 31st in the poverty-stricken family celebration is the most coherent part. We are more likely to see the Bigas family meals or Pirata their dog. 

There is a scene of Bigas baking in the out of doors oven (the bread looks quite good). There’s also the clip of the early short where the character strings live flies into a necklace. The director appears to like the black and white clip of naked women squirting breast milk in the surf, running it at length and firing it up twice. 

Three people showed up for the session where I dozed off.

It is a pity the Luna La Femme De Chambre Du Titanic/The Chamber Maid from theTitanic is not on show. It is substantial and leaves one wondering about the unseen titles on his seventeen movie filmography. 

Then again that one is not Spanish and it’s not pornographic so I guess it doesn’t qualify.

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