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.

A cannibal in Granada

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A routine and dull life can hide astonishing secrets, as tailor Carlos’, grave and responsible at work, silence and frugal at home, but with his refrigerator full of meat, human meat. The film’s slow cadence and the long sequence shots in contrast with the high tension of the story suit the character’s double life and personality, as in a Takeshi Kitano’s movie; the explanations for his behavior are simple as a child’s: “I wanted them and killed them. That’s what I do: I kill them and eat them”. The director doesn’t want to go deeper and verbalize more of Carlos’ tasty interest in the female flesh, although it’s clear how his cannibalism serves as a substitute for sex, considering the sensual way he spreads spices over the steaks with his fingers, how he smells the dead bodies in the “sacrificial altar” or his face of contained satisfaction when chewing the just-made tenderloin. References to his sexual impotence are suggested all over the film, for his null interactions with the Hitchcokian and receptive twin Rumanian young women, same as the parallel with the Catholic imagery of crucified Christ and the sacrament of Communion, which no doubt he follows too literally.

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