Youth is a condition that gets better with time, but in the meanwhile…

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I finally watched Somos tão jovens, a fictional recreation –as if all recreations were not somehow fictional- of Brazilian rock band from the 80s Legião Urbana. The same way we now experience art in a fragmented way because time is now full of distractions and social commitments, as the new technologies never fail to remind us attacking weak and inconstant minds like mine, I started the movie at Guarulhos airport a few months ago. The music that made pular a whole generation and still remains in the imaginary of a youth eager for a Brazilian movida, kept me occupied in the tedious hours of a flight connection. Sometimes we prefer not to go back to those half-seen films until much later when we find ourselves in a better mood to immerse into them, or we keep on seeing pieces, sequences that stay for a while in our change-addicted brains until we decide to check emails, facebook accounts, different hypertexts…, or until the final call for your flight home makes it through your ears.

Young Renato Russo, the real theme of the story, is depicted here as he probably was, a tormented soul living in a conservative society in search of a new crisis that helped him learn who he was and who he wanted to become; it’s like a Lou Reed’s clone –the physical similarities are obvious- without the life and experiences of the New Yorker but with as much genius –by Brazilian standards- as his. The film is not a hagiography of a dead myth; on the contrary, it focuses on the contradictions of an egocentric personality whose not completely self-assumed homosexuality initially causes him great psychological distress. The fiction tries to referentially explain the well-known lyrics with events from his life. As 21st century individuals, we cannot but see the rebellious evolution of that upper-middle Brazilian youth as a pose generating fashion victims, as a more mature and not-punk-any-more Renato throws to his audience when he calls them spoiled brats. It’s the final years of the dictatorship, but their claim for democracy is not a real one, only the imitation of an Anglo-Saxon music style and a naïve rebelliousness; exactly the opposite of the present complains by young lower and “middle” classes than can be seen on the streets in the main Brazilian cities during the World Cup demanding better living conditions and decent public services in the most racially “harmonious” country in the world, as a friend of mine wrongly told me recently.

Youth, divine treasure…

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In the early seventies, Manolo Summers premiered his film Adiós, cigüeña, adiós, the metaphor of a young teenager’s pregnancy in pre-transitional Spain, a pseudo-comedy which reflected about the serious theme of the lack of sexual education in the Francoist era and its undesired consequences. It became a box-office success.

Many years have passed and a movie about another couple of teenagers, these two a bit older, has just been released. Jaime Rosales already surprised in 2007 with his second film, a documentary-like fiction, La soledad, about the mean-spirited behavior of family members in the context of the Spanish real state bubble. The same director, shooting straight at our emotions, presents now Hermosa Juventud, a love story that takes place in today’s Madrid with the background of the economic crisis.

Dropouts working sporadically in construction for 10 euros a day, long-term unemployed members of a family having lost their self-confidence, economic problems and an unexpected pregnancy, as a Spanish version of Ken Loach’s. The option of working as porn actors is just an anecdote in the succession of misfortunes that they experience in everyday life. They live in a first-world country, they have a place to sleep and a hot meal but they feel useless. 300 euros each for having sex in front of a camera is not more degrading than their tedious sense of hopelessness, which takes its toll on the couple.

At some point, Germany shows up as a possibility but Rosales’s masterful pessimistic realism won’t let a stereotype remain in the imaginary of so many naïve Spaniards who believe in miracles, whether in Europe, Brazil or China: things are never easy, especially for an uneducated immigrant.

Rosales’s previous use of screen fragmentation and multiple points of view with different cameras, a very unusual and audacious technique, gives place in this case to social media, smartphone applications and the use of their photographs to show the passing of time, as an updated Citizen Kane with new technologies.

One of my favorite Spanish movies from the first decade of this century, Bienvenido a casa, by David Trueba, also deals with the bearing of a baby by a couple in their twenties and the consequences of becoming a parent, this time explicitated by the young man’s colleagues at a magazine’s newsroom, who debate the “nonsense of transmiting to another creature the legacy of our misery”, as Machado de Assis’s puts it into the mouth of his famous character Brás Cubas.

KOREAN DETECTIVE STORIES AND MADRID IN THE 80’S

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Americans have their Philip Marlowe; Spaniards, Pepe Carvalho; Italians, Salvo Montalbano; Brazilians, Remo Bellini; Mexicans, Héctor Belascoarán Shayne; Japanese, Imanishi; Greeks, Kostas Jaritos; Chileans, Heredia; and Koreans, since 2008’s movie The Chaser, have Jung-Ho, an ex-police officer turned into a pimp investigating the vanishing of three of “his girls”. A psychopath kidnaps prostitutes, kills and buries them in a garden. This is not a spoiler: from almost the beginning of the film, we know the assassin; so do the police and Jung-Ho, and even have him under arrest. They are just looking for the corpses and the last kidnapped call-girl who could still be alive. There is a mixture of extreme violence and melodrama in this Korean action movie, both condiments so appreciated by East-Asian audiences. The aggressive detective swings between his dark side as a professional extortioner and his more caring face taking care of an orphan child. Behind all that is his feeling of guilt for exploiting the young women. But there are no limits –either moral or legal- for him in this politically incorrect movie. In the background of an exciting suspense there is a story of redemption and a mental fight inside Jung-Ho’s ethical consciousness: who is worse, the assassin who dismembers the girls or the pimp who exploits them to death? Doesn’t he see himself in the young psychopath’s behavior?

Other interesting aspects of Korean society are also shown here, such as gender relations, organized crime, the reaction of the police and even politics: everything happening in a gray and impersonal Seoul.

Last night, El crack 2 (1982) was shown on the Spanish TV, and its detective Germán Areta (interpreted by the popular until-then comedian Alfredo Landa but after the two films, the toughest actor in Spanish cinema) shares with Jung-Ho his self-confidence in front of young thugs and his intelligence, although his style is more contained, compared to the Korean detective’s excessive and gratuitous violence. It’s been only 30 years since Garci’s movie but the Madrid that is depicted there as another character, looks centuries old: billiards in Atocha, black and red taxis, Galerias Preciados, old-fashioned apartment houses, panoramic views of a city always changing, including the Gran Via, especially the Gran Via.

“Thanks for sharing”: compulsive behavior and sex-addiction

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Most diagnosis manuals of psychopathology consider a mental disease as such when it interferes seriously with the person’s normal life and subjectively causes him/her problems; however, when it comes to sex, there is more controversy in the psychiatric bibles. In the case of the film Thanks for sharing, Neil’s sex-addiction sends him to court for rubbing himself against a woman’s buttocks in New York city’s subway before losing his job in a hospital for filming his female boss’s legs with a hidden camera and getting caught; for not to mention his compulsive masturbation and his lack of ‘conventional’ social life. I guess we can consider that a pretty good life-interfering. Most psychology manuals of behavior modification for addicts also put emphases on prevention and avoidance of tempting stimulus, so in his sex-addict group meetings, this self-cheating character is recommended not to use Internet or even take the subway. I would definitely recommend this guy –if he existed outside of a film- not to go to Japan, where miniskirts and pornography are ubiquitous and where chikan salarymen (痴漢サラリーメン) or even reputed professors also lose their jobs because of groping or mirror-panty-peeping in the subway.

In the movie, there is also the softer case of a successful high executive in his early 40’s, Adam, who finds difficult to establish a healthy relationship (with Gwyneth Paltrow!) after a 5-year soberness from a problematic womanizing behavior and an addictive prostitute-hiring: whatever form of sex reminds him of his previous uncontrolled life and he fears that an intense sexual sensation might trigger his falling again into the abyss of desire. In his case, he even avoids TV and laptops to keep his addiction under control. These characters are not far from real life, affecting even –and especially- famous people: when I knew of David Duchovny’s sex addiction, I realized how much he was himself in the funny TV-series Kalifornication.

It is unavoidable that Thanks for sharing –creatively translated into Spanish as Amor sin Control, no comments- brings to mind the celebrated 1998’s Happiness, a masterpiece showing the uncomfortable North America’s dark side of sexual life. However, this recent one is a bit more optimistic and closer to a Hollywood romantic comedy with funny buddies. Tim Robins, with a magnetic and verisimilar acting as usual, in the role of a failed father and ex-addict, gives the movie a more serious touch and his character puts it this way: “To quit this is like quitting crack with a pipe attached to your body”. Dede, a female minor character, also unable to relate with men without having sex with them, explains her point: “I have sex when I’m sad; or bored; or tired”.

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