Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chicanonautica: A Spanish New Wave

My wife and I gave up on cable years ago. We dip into it in motels when we travel, where it has become apparent that most television is background noise with commercials. I do have a morbid curiosity about what they’re selling these days, but it gets old fast.

Most evenings we amuse ourselves with Hulu and some of the network websites, which I can enjoy now that I’ve learned not to take them seriously (or maybe I’m just getting old). Often the pickings get slim and we search for movies on Amazon Prime and Netflicks.

Recently, we’ve noticed a lot of interesting movies coming from Spain.

Some of you will sneer at this. You view Spain as the enemy as you construct your native identity in English. But I’ve found that I have a lot more in common with Spanish culture than with a lot of what the Anglo-dominated entertainment industry serves up.

Spanish movies have always been different, going back to the silent special effects wizardry of Segundo de Chomón. Their horror movies are a twisted universe of their own. And when it comes to art films, there’s plenty of blood, guts, tits, and ass.

But we should expect that from the homeland of bullfighting, the mother of all art forms.

And don’t confuse these movies with the ancient French New Wave. They have arty styles and looks, but these are fast-moving. Sure, you have to read subtitles and hear a Spanish that’s different from what’s spoken in your barrio, but you will be entertained. And excited.

The Invisible Guardian takes place in the northern, Basque region, which is gloomy and spooky unlike the sun-blasted landscapes used in countless spaghetti westerns. Based on the international bestseller by Dolores Redondo, it’s a crime drama with a strong female lead--and it also has a supernatural theme. There’s a duende central the story, reminding us a lot of our folklore hitched its way to las Americas on the Spanish Armada. Film noir in foresty mountains with a magical kind of realism. 

The Invisible Guest (yup, two movies with “invisible” in the title, what are the odds?) is a locked room mystery that comes on like nitro-charged Hitchcock with rapid-fire suspense, and twists that get time trippy (the original title is Contratiempo), right up to one of the most amazing endings ever, that leaves you surprised and thinking back to all the clues they kept showing you, making you think, but of course! I should have known!

The Bar (originally, El Bar) is an apocalyptic thriller that teeters on the jagged edge of science fiction. The title sequence with its close ups of microorganisms and wild jazz is a masterpiece on its own. The rest of the film manages to live up to it. It starts off like Fellini directing an out of control Twilight Zone--seeming like chaos, with everyone talking at once, as it sets up the story. The apocalypse becomes intimate with some feisty characters trapped in a messy, claustrophobic situation.
And not a zombie in sight!

These movies are so good, Hollywood is probably negotiating to remake them in English right now. I still recommend seeing the originals. The corporate entertainment industry will probably lose something in translation.

And we need to stay in touch with the global barrio!

Ernest Hogan is proud to announce that Strange Particle Press is working on a new edition of his novel Smoking Mirror Blues.

1 comment:

Frank S Lechuga said...


I like your comment, "you view Spain as the enemy as you construct your native identity in English." Haha...ain't it the truth. Your reviews of the Spanish flics are welcomed by this pilgrim.