A lighthearted and acidly witty take on contempo femmehood, with no particular ax to grind, Judith Colell's feature debut "Women" is surprisingly accomplished, given its complex structure.

A lighthearted and acidly witty take on contempo femmehood, with no particular ax to grind, Judith Colell’s feature debut “Women” is surprisingly accomplished, given its complex structure. Manipulating a range of moods, offering a range of attractive characters, and skillfully both criticizing and celebrating what women are making of themselves at the turn of the millennium, pic lacks obvious marquee power but at home word of mouth could bring cult status. Offshore, fest slots are a possibility.

With a cast and crew that are largely Catalan — though dialogue is in Spanish — film loosely weaves together seven stories set in central Barcelona. Dominant strand has Andrea (the dependable Mercedes Sampietro) telling her shrink about marriage to the appallingly machista and tight-fisted Emilio (Emilio Gutierrez Caba). Emilio is seeing Reme (Eva Santolaria), a self-serving hooker who eventually persuades him to move in with her.

Neli (Carmen Balague) advises her friend Sofia (Laura Cepeda) on strategies to save her marriage to the husband she hates but can’t live without; the fearsomely matriarchal Magdalena (vet Julieta Serrano, in top comic form) tells off daughter Teresa (Cristina Baeza) for losing her boyfriend.

The most engaging story has Paca (Eulalia Ramon) desperately trying to raise $100 to buy her son a pair of training shoes. It’s a moving little parable about how parents will kill themselves to achieve the social status for their kids which they themselves have been denied.

Less successful stories have university buddies Mireia (Marina Gatell) and Eva (Anna Casas) arguing over a rival — Mireia ends up putting powdered glass into the rival’s face cream — and a businesswoman, Leo (Laura Conejero), struggling to remain a woman in a man’s world.

Still, the narrative hit rate is generally high, with the rapid-fire pacing and dialogue by the eagle-eared Jordi Cadena sharp and sometimes hilarious (as when Magdalena reprimands Teresa that her b.f. ran off with a man because she was no good in bed). Thesping standards are high, the necessary plot coincidences smoothly handled as some of the stories crisscross, and despite the limited screen time devoted to each character, there are few stereotypes.

Lensing is used creatively, and other tech credits are fine. Sampietro took best actress at the Sitges Fest for her performance.

Women

Spain

Production

An Original Movie Distribution release of a PC de Mediterraneo production, in association with Canal Plus and TVC. (International sales: Slot Serveis Audiovisuals, Barcelona.) Produced by Aureli de Luna. Directed by Judith Colell. Screenplay, Jordi Cadena, based on stories by Isabel Clara-Simo.

Crew

Camera (color), Josep Maria Civit; editor, Jose Salecedo; music, Jose Manuel Pagan; art director, Josep Massague; sound (Dolby Digital), Jaume Melendez. Reviewed at Palacio de la Prensa, Madrid, Nov. 2, 2000. (In Sitges Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Mercedes Sampietro, Eulalia Ramon, Eva Santolaria, Laura Conejero, Laura Cepeda, Carmen Balague, Cristina Baeza, Marina Gatell, Anna Casas, Julieta Serrano, Emilio Gutierrez Caba.
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