Amigos Y Amigas... Festival De Cine

3 July 2012 | 8:09 am | Anthony Carew

Everything you need to know about The 15th Spanish Film Festival.

The 15th Spanish Film Festival opens with the latest flick for one of the few Spanish filmmakers to have found recent local-release love: Álex de la Iglesia. As Luck Would Have It is his follow-up to last year's hysterical, maniacally-violent The Last Circus, and it features the same kind of pitch-black comedy, gymnastic camera-work, saturated-colours, and way-over-the-top tone he's based his career around. Effectively a satire on media hysteria, de la Iglesia gives us a luckless, unemployed father who becomes an instant celebrity when he's involved in a calamitous accident; our fallen hero negotiating media deals with circling vultures whilst hanging onto life by a thread.

Closing night is a far more uneasy proposition: Sleep Tight chronicling a creepy concierge who methodically, obsessively messes with the tenants and staff in his building, stalking one dame with a perversity that'll repulse closing-night patrons.

No Rest For The Wicked is one of the SFF's big draws, a Goya-hoarding procedural that unfolds with a meticulous sense of slow-burn pain; Enrique Urbizu's picture seemingly modelled on the drawn-out dissatisfaction of David Fincher's colossus Zodiac. Where the picture starts with its drunken anti-hero coldly slaughtering a barful of lowlifes, there's few salacious notes thereafter; the story unfolding through an investigation that uncovers plenty of dark connections, yet never suggests, for a minute, that justice is to be served. Dark Impulse is a far more idiotic policier, dredging up clichés —this time it's personal!— and tipping into the slow-motion-sex-scene realm of the 'erotic thriller'.

Cousinhood slums it in another nefarious genre: the rom-com. So utterly dire you could confuse it for an Italian commercial comedy —and those are, indeed, fighting words— it tells the tale of three 'hilarious'/mismatched cousins who spontaneously go on a road-trip back to their old village; encountering a colourful cast of comic caricatures that grow almost instantaneously grating. But, hey, if you're excited by the fact that there'll be a 'down' moment ten minutes from the end followed by a pleasing resolution, run wild.

Chinese Take-Away reminds me of a terrible —yet bafflingly crowd-pleasin'— movie from Israel called Noodle, where a Chinese orphan is treated less as human being, more as exotic pet. The set-up here's basically the same: Argentina's eternal leading-man Ricardo Darín playing a gruff loner who comes into possession of his very-own lost Chinese immigrant. Darín thinks he'll have to teach him the Argentine ways —eating bull's testicles!— but, woah, it's our foreign visitor that, like E.T., will teach us the lessons…

The Bad Intentions operates in a micro-genre of far more interest: the coming-of-age-tale-set-to-a-tumultuous-political-upheaval. Here, a pre-adolescent child-of-privilege lives a sheltered life in a large country-house, ferried by a private driver to-and-fro her Catholic girls school. But the rise of the Shining Path —and a sense of hoped-for Communist insurgency amongst the lower-classes— has young Cayetana questioning her bourgeois position-on-high, all whilst cultivating a fatalism informed by both the tense political mood and South America's history of martyred freedom-fighters.

Wrinkles is an animated picture rendered in glorious 2D shades, a grown-up, downbeat drama taking place in an aged-care facility, which uses its cartoon palette to depict the slow slide into dementia with great artistry. Ignacio Ferreras' gracious picture conveys the sad plight of the aged and infirm with an undeniable plea for compassion; Wrinkles deeply touching and at-times genuinely brilliant.