Sunday, March 16, 2008

Viva! the movies

I managed to find time to go to Viva! the Spanish film festival at the Cornerhouse yesterday, and more by luck than judgement went to see La Soledad (Solitary Fragments.) It's a remarkably good film, winner of best film at the Goyas. Slow, cleverly framed, chatty, fragmentary it's like a low-wattage Aldovomar (in that there's less "event" and more "life"), with something of the ennui of Jim Jarmusch, or the stately pleasure of Wong Kar Wai. A slow unfolding of two loosely connected stories, a young woman and her young son moving to Madrid, and a widow with three daughters who lives there. The lack of explanation, and the fragmentary nature of the scenes takes a while to settle these relationships in the viewer's head, which seems a little too wilful, and there are a number of characters who are just there for a scene or two, and seem a bit too peripheral. What it does contain is a remarkable sense of ordinary life in contemporary times and - rare in an English/American movie - a concentration on the big issues of ordinary life; your parents growing old; unsuitable marriages; difficult relationships; illness and death. Yet none of this is handled grimly. The performances are stunning, particularly Petra Martinez as the mother of 3 daughters, singlehandedly keeping the family together through little nudges, little self-sacrifices. If it comes round again, or you have a chance to see it, take it. One film out of the many on show at Viva! isn't many, but that's the nature of festivals, unless you take the time out to catch as much as you can - it's hard to see more than a couple of things. I came back to watch Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train", which somehow I'd never got round to seeing. Another riveting example of how to do it; though with this, "Vertigo", "Rear Window" and "Rope" the subject is always the same, "the perfect murder."

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