Friday, February 13, 2015

Dios los cria (…and God Created Them/Façade)

The cinema of Puerto Rico is neither extensive nor widely known; all the more cause for celebration, therefore, that this title should have been chosen a couple off years ago by the Academy for typically meticulous preservation treatment; more so that it should prove so fully deserving.

A delightfully Buñuelian satire on the business classes and man’s fundamentally self-serving nature (with a couple of broadsides aimed at religion for good measure, starting with the title), Morales’s widely-hailed but little-seen* debut comprises five short stories: brothers quarrel over an inheritance; a businessman tricks a bishop twice over; a stuck lift prompts confessions and recriminations; an aged prostitute vainly contemplates her lot; and a man reorders his domestic arrangements between wife and mistress. Director Jacopo Morales is fond of the ridiculous, from the old man’s funeral that becomes a triple mourning, presided over by the fulsome décolletage of his young widow (of one day!), to the businessman’s gliding escalator descent and re-ascension to the strains of a heavenly male choir; the deliriously purple prose of the blonde temptress (with ridiculous flute-led 70’s love theme) that repeatedly draws her lover (Morales himself) back to her bed in the final episode, and its unexpected revelation and farcically logical resolution.

The cinematic presentation is mostly straightforward, although the fourth episode is formally daring – and successful – in its almost complete lack of dialogue, the montage of looks and touches in a dimly-lit hooker bar carried by the time-worn features of Esther Sandoval as the old pro; and the widely-applicable parable-like nature of each episode is reinforced by an effective final-frame freeze. The silliness may rob the satire of some of its bite, but it is recognisably the product of ferocious outrage at a world of masquerades and hypocrisy and, most important, absurdly, viciously funny throughout.

d/p/sc Jacopo Morales ph Carmelo Rivera m Pedro Rivera Toledo cast Norma Candal, Carlos Cestero, Pedro Joan Figueroa, Daniel Lugo, Chavito Marrero, Benjamin Morales, Jacopo Morales, Alicia Moreda, Gladys Rodríguez, Esther Sandoval, Miguel Ángel Suárez
(1979, PR, 120m)

*so much so that it’s nigh on impossible to find a still from the film. Contrary to the implication of the top image, it’s in colour, pleasantly grainy, with a thoroughbred 70s feel, from the cocktail jazz to spray-stiffened hair-helmets, prominent lapels and manly beards. And pulls off with perfect aplomb the old middle-aged-man-imagines-secretary/nun-naked gag.

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