Saturday 28 April 2018

Spanish Film Festival - Barrie Pattison enjoys THE TRIBE (Fernando Colomo)

Most of what I see in the Spanish Film Festival has the Film Factory logo on the front and proves to be aimed at a none too sophisticated audience with a taste for bawdy gags. This is OK until the pattern becomes obvious.

I miss last year's sharper films, most of which came from Argentina . They also seem have given Penelope Cruz and Luis Tosar a bye for this event, which is a pity.

The Festival's much touted La tribu/The Tribe, from Fernando Colomo, has a precision tooled opening where in no time we’ve seen Paco León as the ruthless Omnicron Company human resources executive become a viral video sensation for being stretchered out of the office as "hombre lapa", trapped inside his intern when someone fires a shot at his window while they are having sex. A year later the reunion with his unknown birth mother Carmen Machi at the hotel where she is a cleaner (a whole floor in half a shift) doesn’t go too well and he all but throws himself under a bus, being rushed into casualty where he reveals amnesia and has trouble forming sentences - this is all in the first few minutes.

One of the dismissed workers has made off with the bag with his papers and keys. The bulk of the film is her taking care of him when he has lost his identity. 

Starting with a nice montage of traveling through a Madrid totally strange to León, onto life in Machi's crowded, flat (“it smells like feet”). Her layabout sons Artur Busquets and Manuel Huedo reject their new brother. Things take shape when they turn him out and he makes his way to her class with "Las Momis" - the mothers who used to hang around outside the dance studio waiting for their kids until they formed their own troop.

The numbers performed by the plain, middle aged working class women are the film’s high points and its reason for being. It must have been rough finding a plausible group who could handle the dance moves and they are a great collection. When Léon shows up, glamorous instructor Maribel del Pino enthuses “A man at last!” and things liven up when one of the team watches Paco nail the steps and tells him that before he lost his memory, he must have been a dancer or a “maricon” - no political correctness here.

Agreeable complication from the presence of his real father, supermarket proprietor Luis Bermejo whom he has never met. Léon practicing his moves while putting the disorganised bodega in shape is a nice scene. As this is going on, our hero is surrounded by the hundreds of agro Omnicron workers he put on the streets who don’t recognise him.

A talent scout for Spain’s Got Talent spots him working with the women and senses a sensational hombre lapa item for the show and our hero gets a shock that makes him snap back (“Soy un mostro”) just before the performance, setting up an agreeable, unlikely ending. Somewhere in the Nightanybody?

This one is nicely put together and is a triumph for Léon, surprisingly so after his own so so Kiki, el amor se hacelast year, which used some of the same people and tried for a similar blue comedy style - more scatology this time. He even manages to shade Machi who is so good in the event’sLa Puerta abierta/The Open Door- no small accomplishment.

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