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With 16 films in its eclectic program, the 8th Spanish Film Festival in Australia is boldly opening with Torremolinos 73, the fact based story of newly weds making what they think is an educational video in their bedroom, as the festival adds Brisbane to its capital cities tour, reports Andrew L. Urban.

Torremolinos 73 is a terrific choice to open the Spanish Film Festival next week, amidst the fiery Spanish Fiesta in Sydney that promises flamenco, tapas and sangria as well as remarkable film based on real events. Back in 1973, with Franco’s regime fading fast, door to door salesman Alfredo and his wife Carmen get the chance to make a Super 8 educational home video for the Scandinavian World Encyclopedia of Reproduction. Or so they think.

Another, much more volatile Carmen, also makes an appearance at the Festival, the highly acclaimed film by Vicente Aranda and starring Paz Vega as a dark and destructive Carmen, in a story based on the book, not Bizet’s opera. “The challenge for me was to make this Carmen different,” the Spanish actress said on her recent Sydney visit, and she has certainly done that. This Carmen is a bawdy and bloody version of the lusty classic in a plush production. Set in 1830, the film also stars Leonardo Sbaraglia as Jose, the young officer who becomes obsessed with having Carmen to himself – so much so he kills the men who dare to hanker after her. When he’s sentenced to death, he tells his tragic tale in his prison cell, to a travelling writer-cum-archaeologist who showed him kindness while he was on the run. 

Festival Director Natalie Ortiz (who in the first edition of the Festival in 1998 programmed the debut feature by young filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar, winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film with The Sea Inside), is excited by another newcomer this year, Vicente Penarrocha, whose film Fuera Del Cuerpo (Body Confusion) “demonstrates an exciting new directorial talent coming out of Spain.”

True enough, Penarrocha’s film is bold and energetic, if at times a tad confusing, but that’s to be expected considering the subject. It’s the story of a traffic cop who walks from his own reality into a film set where he is the star, but they’re filming what looks like his dysfunctional life. The establishing scenes lead seamlessly into the first leap from one reality to another, one of the film’s highlight moments. It’s well executed this bold sequence as it asks the audience to invest in and trust the filmmaker to take us into this double sided reality. We’re never quite sure thereafter which reality – or which body – our anti hero inhabits. Despite a slight sag in the middle, the film has enough going for it to pull through and the performances, especially the two women, are tops.

Luis Tosar, one of Spain’s busiest and best contemporary actors, is the subject of a mini sidebar with four of his films in the program, all made in the past two years – he stars in another five being released this year.

The Festival is putting on the animated El Cid at Sydney’s Academy Twin for Spanish Mother’s Day in the middle of the Festival (Ma 8) plus five shorts based on children that were sponsored by UNICEF. And the Festival will close with a bang in Sydney, with a live band playing original orchestrations of the tango prior to the closing night film, No Sos Vos, Soy Yo (It’s Not You, It’s Me).


Sydney | 4-15 May | Palace Norton Street & Academy Twin Cinema
Melbourne | 12-22 May | New Cinema Como
Brisbane | 19-22 May | Palace Centro Cinemas
Presented by Aerolineas Argentinas

Published April 28, 2005

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Paz Vega - Carmen

Torremolinos 73

Luis Tosar

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