Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays, Interviews

‘Torremolinos ’73’: Applying a coat of beige to fertility, pornography and filmmaking in Franco’s Spain

Though he’s directed only two films in the ten years since his feature debut, Pablo Berger has proven himself one of the most inventive and accomplished filmmakers to come out of Spain in a couple of decades.

Javier Cámara in ‘Torremolinos ’73?

His most recent film Blancanieves, an ingenious re-imagining of the “Snow White” story as a silent-movie melodrama in the 1920s world of bullfighting royalty and flamenco style in Spain, earned ten Goya Awards and was Spain’s official entry for the Oscars. While it generated obligatory comparisons to The Artist—it is, after all, another foreign film that channels the international language of silent movies for modern audiences—it really has more in common with the melodrama of Blood and Sand and Pedro Almodóvar, but with a melancholy love story under all the intrigue.

That committed, authentic romanticism grounds his debut feature Torremolinos ’73, a playful and sexy period piece set during the repressive atmosphere of Franco’s Spain, circa 1973. What a setting for a comedy about pornography, fertility and moviemaking. I first caught the film at a 2004 festival screening and I was completely taken with its gentle satire, its evocation of a time so rarely treated with such humor—and mostly its affection for its characters.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema

‘Blancanieves’: A Retro Retelling of Snow White

Maribel Verdú: simply wicked

The obvious comparison to Pablo Berger’s inventive retelling of Snow White as a silent-movie melodrama, set in the 1920s bullfighting scene of Seville, is The Artist. Both channel the international language of silents for modern viewers, and both have been embraced by audiences and lavished with awards. Blancanieves comes stateside with 10 Goya Awards, Spain’s answer to the Oscars.

The similarities end there. Berger draws from different inspirations—grand melodrama, flamenco, circus fantasy, and toreador worship—and mixes them with silent-film conventions and contemporary storytelling. Think Blood and Sand by way of Victor Sjöström and Pedro Almodóvar, with a modern, empowered heroine.

That heroine—called “Snowhite” in one mashed-up word—is Carmen (Macarena García), the all-but-abandoned daughter of a crippled bullfighter (Daniel Giménez Cacho). Her social-climbing wicked stepmother Encarna is played by Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mamá También) with scheming, sadistic glee. There’s also a band of dwarfs with a gypsy bullfighting act and a poisoned apple, but the fairy-tale elements end there. In the enchanted corrida, amnesia-struck Snowhite becomes a matador in her own right, an adored heroine and Prince Charming all at once.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly