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Juan Diego Botto,
A portrait of the bloody dynasty that spawned a pope, Alexander VI, as well as the role model for Machiavelli's "The Prince," his son Cesare Borgia, and a legend of femme duplicity, daughter Lucrezia Borgia.
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Manuel Gómez Pereira
Juan Diego Botto,
Alberto San Juan
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The Spanish movie industry has had more than its fair-share of films with unique, black humored story lines, with a little bit of nudity and sex for extra conditioning, and sometimes an absurd twist at the end to give a sweet aftertaste. Zapping is a prime example, and fine advertisement for Spanish films.
I didn't know what to expect when I saw the film. I was going by what I read on the back of the DVD. It wasn't hugely successful in Britain, and not many of my Spanish friends had seen it. The director/writer, Juan Manual Chumilla has done nonetheless. I couldn't help but feel he'd taken a few pointers out of Almodóvar's book, with the film's clever editing, great acting, charming dialogues, post-modern storyline and bone-dry humour, as well the dramatic background music and artistic build-up. It might also have been a trend in Spanish cinema at the time, I don't know. After all, it is nearly ten years old.
The film begins with Ana-María (Natalia Dicenta), a middle-aged woman doing her all to win back her husband Alberto (Alberto San Juan, also in Dias de Futbol - brilliant) who has moved in with the younger, sexier, student doctor Elvira, played by the delightful Paz Vega. Ana-María will do anything to lure back her husband, whether it means going on a trashy live TV show to tell the world about her situation, or using the superstitious advice of a TV fortune teller by putting onion in her eyes so she cried tears onto a picture of Alberto, which she would then burn and throw the ashes under the sofa. Elvira tries a similar trick to keep Alberto. Ana-María also lays down red-herrings to make Elvira jealous and paranoid. To make things a little more confusing, Elvira has her psychotic ex-boyfriend Ramiro (Eduard Fernández) after her, and his twin brother trying to turn himself into the police. What happens? Not telling! It's not laugh out loud humour just charming enough to bring a smile to your face. The acting was fantastic both realistic and flawless. San Juan's portrayal of Alberto's weak and gullible character is perfect. Ana María's character is also life-like, her middle-aged woman mannerisms and the intense determination in her eyes to get what she wants. Paz Vega is as sexy as always, and Eduard Fernández's performance playing Ramiro, the ex-con, and twin brother Ramón, the sensible brother, is also first-rate. What I also liked was the background music, dramatic, and often reminiscent (or possibly a parody) of a Hitchcock movie hence the 'dagger' music.
I can't think of many flaws in the film. If there is one criticism I have, and that is there far too much chit-chat and the plot moves very slowly. It takes a long time for the movie to 'get-going'. Then again, maybe too much action wouldn't have suited the film, and even killed it. The plot thickens slowly anyway, so if you're bored easily, this movie isn't for you.
There were a couple of other aspects of the film I liked, such as the trashy TV show about getting couples back together. I have great memories of catching such programmes when I was in Madrid. I also like it when Ana-María brings Mr Spock on the TV show to help lure her Trekkie fan Alberto back into her arms.
To conclude, if you like strange Spanish movies, with little twists and turns, an original plot, and great acting and editing watch this. It might bore you in places, but it's worth sticking through. I really don't know why this film was not more successful. Final say, it was enjoyable.
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