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The Dog in the Manger

Diana Emma Suarez

Diana Emma Suarez

Teodoro Carmelo Gomez

Tristan Fernando Conde

Marcela Ana Duato

Fabio Miguel Rellan

Ricardo Angel de Andres

Federico Juan Gea

Anarda Maite Blasco

Ludovico Rafael Alonso

An opulent costumer adapted from the work of 17th-century Spanish Baroque playwright Lope de Vega, “The Dog in the Manger” is a spirited comedy about asingle-minded noblewoman who follows her heart and not the constricting class rules of her day as she woos a lowly attendant. Theatrical prospects appear minimal, but stately production values and attractive leads should secure quality TV bookings for this tony frock piece directed by Pilar Miro.

Having taken a fancy to her secretary, Teodoro (Carmelo Gomez), spunky young beauty Countess Diana of Belflor (Emma Suarez) is alarmed to learn of his engagement to one of her maids (Ana Duato). She intervenes to separate them by steering Marcela’s affections to another court flunky, Fabio (Miguel Rellan), and Teodoro’s admiration in her own direction.

While the extent of her designs on him wavers uncertainly, Diana’s attentiveness to Teodoro nonetheless provokes jealousy from her noblemen suitors. They enlist the upstart’s resourceful confidant Tristan (Fernando Conde) to bump him off. But he instead hatches a plot to pass Teodoro off as the long-lost son of an ailing count (Rafael Alonso), thus elevating his friend to Diana’s level.

Miro’s solid, straightforward direction allows a sense of flatness to creep in at times. But the strength and wit of the writing prevail, and the rather talky court comedy improves as it goes.

Playing it basically as theater, Suarez and Gomez appear to be having more fun here and generate much more rewarding chemistry than in Miro’s dour thriller “Your Name Poisons My Dreams,” also in San Sebastian. The duo also have been paired in all three features directed by Julio Medem. Other cast members are similarly pro.

The Dog in the Manger

(EL PERRO DEL HORTELANO)

Production: (SPANISH) A Columbia TriStar Films de Espana release (in Spain) of an Enrique Cerezo Producciones Cinematograficas/Lola Films/Cartel production, in association with Television Espanola, Canal Plus. (International sales: Enrique Cerezo, Madrid.) Executive producer, Vicente Vieitez. Directed, written by Pilar Miro, based on the play by Felix Lope de Vega y Carpio; screen adaptation, Rafael Perez Sierra. Camera (Eastmancolor), Javier Aguirresarobe; editor, Pablo G. del Amo; music, Jose Nieto; art direction, Felix Murcia; costume design, Pedro Moreno; sound (Dolby Digital), Carlos Faruolo. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 28, 1996. (Also in London Film Festival.) Running time: 107 MIN.

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