4 posts categorized "Spanish Cinema"

January 11, 2021



Luis Buñuel paved the way for a neo-realistic style that would sweep across Europe (and eventually America in the '70s) after Italian Neorealism took hold during World War II. Buñuel’s 1933 doc “Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (“Land Without Bread") established neorealism’s documentary style, and use of unprofessional actors, to exert an invisible effect of editorial point-making. However, Buñuel had more tricks up his sleeve. Style can be copied; approach and execution cannot. 


Having spent the post-World War II ‘40s directing popular “charro” films in Mexico, Buñuel was encouraged by his frequent producer Óscar Dancigers to make a film about Mexico City’s impoverished lost children. Co-written by Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza, “Los Olvidados” (“The Young and the Damned”) remains a towering beacon of social realist Cinema, albeit with a strong dose of dreamscape subconsciousness. Made in 1950 (the same year that Hollywood made “All About Eve”), “Los Olvidados” retains the power to shock its audience due to Buñuel’s unflappable ability to inject contextual clarity about society’s implication in dooming its underclass children to lives of abuse and crime.


Buñuel eschews any sense of politeness, condescension, or patronizing of his characters or of his audience. El Jaibo (Roberto Cobo) is a juvenile delinquent recently escaped from jail who murders the boy he believes ratted on him. Pedro (Alfonso Mejía), a young witness to Jaibo’s crime, is accused of the murder while Jaibo is free to pursue an affair with Pedro’s neglectful mother. Mexico City's impoverished children are exploited by adults at every turn, without exception. 

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You won’t find any pity in “Los Olvidados,” but you will experience the full effect of Buñuel’s unvarnished filmic system of delivering onion layers of social realism. Think for yourself. You want a deep-dive filmic social study relevant to today, you've got it.


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It would take another decade before Luis Buñuel would turn his attentions to only making his own films, with "Viridiana" (1961).

Not Rated. 80 mins.

Five Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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April 22, 2015



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon



Live flesh “Live Flesh” (“Carne Tremula”) is one of iconic Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s most overlooked and underrated films. It is one of the flamboyant filmmaker’s clearest manifestations of his signature melodramatic style with a personalized homage to Spanish culture during and after Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.

Distinguished by its soap-opera presentation, Almodovar makes pointed political statements that bruise. British author Ruth Rendell’s 1986 novel supplies the narrative form Almodovar transmutes to serve his goal.

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A story of secretly shared bedfellows begins with the birth of a boy. Almodovar’s later muse Penelope Cruz plays a pregnant prostitute with the majestic name of Isabel Plaza Caballero. On Christmas Eve 1970, Isabel’s water breaks in the middle of the night while she rides a public bus guided by a put-upon driver who wonders aloud why he, out of 30,000 other bus drivers in Madrid, has to put up with the inconvenience of pulling over so that a rider can give birth. Isabel names her son Victor.

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Spain is silenced under a state-decreed state of emergency. “Libertad Abajo El Estado de Escepcion” (Freedom under the State is the exception”) is spray-painted on a wall behind the parked bus.

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Mother and son are rewarded for the public-transport birth with free lifetime bus passes. Little good it does. Twenty years later, Victor runs into a bad-luck situation with Elena (Francesca Neri), a junkie prostitute who lands him in prison for shooting David, an undercover cop played by Javier Bardem. Nevermind that David’s police partner Sancho (Jose Sancho) pulled Victor’s finger on the trigger. As we discover, Sancho knew that his partner had been sleeping with his wife Clara (Angela Molina) and made the most of a violent opportunity.

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David is living as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic as a result of the shooting when Victor is released from prison six years later. Spain has changed as much as David and Victor have. Where the streets were once empty because people hid inside their homes, Madrid now bustles with crowded sidewalks. David has married Elena. They have a special basketball court inside their house where he practices for the next Summer Paralympics. The recovered Elena runs an orphanage.  

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Victor finds cold comfort in his recently deceased mother’s squalid house in a desolate Madrid slum. He cherishes the inheritance she left him (150,000 pesetas – roughly $1300), imagining how many tricks she had to turn to save up this meager amount. While visiting his mother’s grave, the well-intentioned but socially inept Victor observes David and Elena attending her father’s funeral.

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Coincidence doubles down when Victor meets Clara, Sancho’s abused wife, at the cemetery. Almodovar uses cheeky Hitchcock-inspired framing to energize Clara’s entrance as shot though a wreath of flowers. Dressed in a leopard-pattern coat, Clara is on the make for Victor’s long-simmering romantic enthusiasm. She proves to be an ideal teacher to Victor of all things carnal. Victor’s string of erotic retribution extends to Elena, whose presence he shares daily while volunteering at her orphanage.

The cinema of Pedro Almodovar is more than just a cottage film industry in Spain. It reflects Spanish culture in urgent romantic, erotic, and impulsive terms through a filter of refined cinematic philosophy. Almodovar wears his influences on his sleeve. John Waters, Alfred Hitchcock, and Douglas Sirk serve as touchstones for Almodovar to give a palpable sense of Spanish identity. All flesh lives and thrives here.

Rated R. 103 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

December 10, 2010


COLESMITHEY.COMJavier Bardem once again proves his dexterity at creating complex flawed characters that are obsessively watchable.

Co-writer/director Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu casts a narrative net so wide that it overreaches.

The film would be inaccessible were it not for Bardem's thoughtful portrayal of a man on the verge of death.

Keepin' it Reel: Biutiful — BlogDailyHerald

Bardem's character is Uxbal, a Barcelona scammer responsible for securing work for illegal immigrants when he isn't looking in on his bipolar ex-wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez). She's busy carrying on an affair with Uxbal's brother.

Javier Bardem in Biutiful (2010, dir Alejandro González Iñárritu).  Production Design Brigitte Broch. Art Direction… | Cinema art,  Cinematography, Cinema photography

Uxbal lives as a single father raising his two young children. He has an unusual gift. He can communicate with the dead. Informed of terminal prostate cancer Uxbal needs to secure a guardian for his kids.

Biutiful (2010) – YAM Magazine

"Biutiful" (the title is a misspelling of "beautiful") is an intriguing character study unable to support its theme of supernatural influence. Had Iñárritu and his co-writers stuck to a more Cassavetes-inspired dramatic approach they might have arrived at a clearer picture. Here's one bitter dramatic pill that's barely worth the effort of sitting through.

Biutiful: Javier Bardem as Uxbal in Biutiful (2010) | Javier bardem, Film  stills, Life

Rated R. 147 mins.

3 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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