Also with: Javier Bardem, Joan Lluis Bozzo, Julieta Serrano, Felipe Hitas, Mario Pedrales.
MADRID — Following the recent international success of his “Amantes,” (Lovers), helmer-scripter Vicenta Aranda gets bogged down in a murky, rambling tale about a down-and-out street musician who mopes about and pines for his aristocratic ex-wife. The result is a yawner that never gets its gums into any of the characters portrayed.
A first-person narrative introduces Juan (Imanol Arias), a 10th-rate accordion player and ventriloquist who meets Norma (Ornella Muti), a pretty society girl, during a sit-in protest in an art gallery during the Franco era. The pair are married (why is never explained), but soon she discards hubby and takes on a string of lovers, while Juan is sent back into the streets to beg for a living.
After being wounded and partly blinded by a Molotov cocktail thrown at him by right-wing thugs, Juan starts dressing up alternately as the Phantom of the Opera and the Invisible Man. But his maimed heart still bleeds for his estranged wife. In one droll interlude, he beds down with a myopic widow, amusingly played by Loles Len (from the Almodvar stable), who’s trying to learn the Catalan lingo.
The bilingual factor (Catalan and Castilian) is tangentially touched on, but the cultural and political points are vague and none of the characters is believable. There are some bloopers, such as when Juan is injured in the Ramblas in Barcelona, supposedly in 1970, and we see a sticker promoting the 1992 Olympic Games on a newsstand.
Muti, now 40, remains alluring, although the Italian actress is dubbed into Castilian and Catalan. Arias and Len put in good performances. But the sex scenes are clumsy, almost ludicrous, and the use of Catalan and heavily accented Andalusian Spanish may puzzle those spectators not possessing linguistic abilities who remain awake until the end.