A dark-horse hit at last fall’s Mifed, and already Spain’s comedy success of the winter season, “Mouth to Mouth” combines high-gloss production values, breathless plotting and a healthy lack of good taste in a genuinely funny and sexy yarn about marital infidelity. Manuel Gomez Pereira’s fourth pic successfully pays homage to the U.S. screwball tradition without betraying its essential Spanishness. Offshore chances look positive.
Bespectacled budding actor Victor (Javier Bardem, from “Jamon, Jamon”) has come to Madrid in search of fame, and an L.A. movie company is interested in using him as an “authentic macho type” in an American pic. While working for an erotic phone service, Victor is called up by Ricardo (Josep Maria Flotats), a repressed gay plastic surgeon, and Amanda (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), who says she’s Ricardo’s wife.
Victor falls for Amanda and agrees to set up a photo of himself and Ricardo having sex so she’ll be able to sue Ricardo for divorce. Needless to say, Amanda turns out not to be Ricardo’s wife; in fact, Ricardo’s real wife, Angela, is out to kill him with her lover David, who’s Ricardo’s business partner.
Like many pics with an excess of minor characters, this one becomes a little too tangled to be taut and races away into nonsense during the last half-hour. But the freshness of the performances — as if everyone involved believes they’re the first to make a comedy with farcical bedroom scenes, cross-dressing and guns that accidentally go off — means the nonsense is never less than enjoyable.
Gomez Pereira’s skill is in welding a basically tired bag of tricks to a story that’s very ’90s in its deregulated sexuality and ever-ringing mobile phones. Pic also takes swipes at both the U.S. movie industry’s tendency to think of Hispanic actors in purely macho terms and the Spanish industry’s knee-jerk adoration of Hollywood.
Bardem, whose roles until now have dripped with unreconstructed male sexuality, reveals a surprisingly delicate talent for comedy, alert to every nuance of what’s going on around him. Camerawork is sharp and busy, with the visual gags coming thick and fast. Script, however, could still have done with some trimming: There’s an occasional ponderousness to the plotting that takes the viewer unnecessarily by the hand.
Only serious drawback is the movie’s overblown music soundtrack, which signals mood changes with all the subtlety of a runaway truck.