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In working class Australia in the 1960's, Spanish migrant Lola (Lola Marceli) and her teenage daughter Lucia (Alice Ansara) are abandoned by Lola's philandering husband Ricardo (Simon Palomares). Almost penniless and warring with Lucia yet determined to exact revenge, Lola meets suave playboy Stefano (Alex Dimitriades) and sets her plans in motion.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
There's a wonderful irony in the choice of filming location in La Spagnola. The (unnamed) barren industrial town where Spanish migrant Lola lives is Kurnell - the place where a certain English naval commander stepped ashore in 1770. It's appropriate that this wonderfully funny and touching tale of love, lust and revenge among 'new Australians' unfolds where European migration really started - and is now home to a Caltex oil refinery! The first thing you notice is the dust that swirls up as Lola (Lola Marceli) hurls abuse at husband Ricardo (Simon Palomares) as he leaves her. The unrepentant Ricardo smiles at his daughter Lucia (Alice Ansara), tells her 'don't forget to feed my pigeons, my lovely' and calmly drives away to be with his blonde Australian mistress. Maybe she should be shocked and angry with her father but she's fourteen and ready to blame her mother for everything. Loaded with hot-blooded drama, absurdist humour and great affection for its warring characters, La Spagnola announces itself boldly and keeps its promises as Lola and Lucia lurch from one instalment of life under pressure to the next.

I admire this film for making us care for its characters in the midst of wild melodrama and risky comic territory. On the latter point, witness what Lola's eccentric sister Manola (Lourdes Bartlome) does with salad ingredients in the privacy of Lola's kitchen. It's a scene with the potential to lose audience goodwill but it works beautifully because a comically conducive atmosphere for such ribald antics has been established. Remember all the four-letter words in The Commitments and how innocent they seemed in context? It's the same story here as delightfully ripe and rude humour infuses the passionate, vibrant story of a woman under considerable influence. The cast is uniformly excellent, with a special mention for Alice Ansara's stunning debut and Alex Dimitriades in a small but significant role as a smoothie who knows a thing or two about a good cut of meat. There's a stack of good extras on this disc.

Steve Jacobs' commentary is informative, if a little dry at times, The Movie Show's behind the scenes footage shows how good cinema is created in very cramped conditions and the inclusion of Jacobs' 1985 short film The Man You Know is a real bonus. A dark political satire with Kafka-like overtones, it stars Lance Curtis whose tragic death at 33 robbed Australia of an exceptional comic talent. Radio JJJ listeners will remember Curtis as 'work experience' announcer Wayne Simpson, among other incarnations. La Spagnola has an infectious spirit that puts a smile on your face from the start and keeps it there. It has moments of tragedy and sadness along with the humour, all of it marvellously blended in a winning film about the survival of perhaps not the fittest, but the most determined.

Published June 27, 2002

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CAST: Lola Marceli, Alice Ansara, Alex Dimitriades, Simon Palomares, Lourdes Bartolome

DIRECTOR: Steven Jacobs

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: 1.85:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1; Deleted Scene, Audio Commentary with Director Steven Jacobs, Behind the Scenes Footage, IF Awards coverage, Cast and Crew Interviews including Writer-Producer Anna-Maria Monticelli, Alex Dimitriades, Steven Jacobs, Lola Marceli, Cast and Crew Biographies, Steven Jacobs short film The Man You Know (1985), Theatrical Promotion interview. Languages: English, Spanish, Italian Subtitles: English.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: The AV Channel/Madman Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 17, 2002

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