An unadorned portrait of a guy who, although nice to his mom and his girlfriend, kills people unprovoked, "The Hours of the Day" boasts a crisp sense of observation in the service of a story many will judge aimless. This steely look at an otherwise normal fellow who kills, pegs debuting helmer Jaime Rosales as a talent to watch.

An unadorned portrait of a guy who, although nice to his mom and his girlfriend, kills people unprovoked, “The Hours of the Day” boasts a crisp sense of observation in the service of a story many will judge aimless. Drippingly realistic, pic is a more chilling, less charismatic variation on “Roberto Succo” — a slice of life in which the protag’s random violence is so senseless it seems to settle once and for all that we live in a godless world. Pic does not glorify or prettify murder, but its steady devotion to the banal and mundane will still leave many viewers baffled. For those attuned to venture’s frosty, distanced style — and those not irritated by pic’s steadfast refusal to provide motivation or catharsis — this steely look at an otherwise normal fellow who kills, pegs debuting helmer Jaime Rosales as a talent to watch.

Unnerving in its matter-of-factness, pic carries no traditional narrative charge: A meal, a slow day at work and the gratuitous strangling of a taxi driver are all given equal, perfectly modulated weight.

Abel (Alex Brendemuhl) runs a small clothing shop on the outskirts of Barcelona. His daily activities are so routine they border on soporific. Then, suddenly, he deliberately kills a female cabby.

Since nobody can know whether they’re good at killing until they try it, pic presents Abel’s crimes as abrupt projects carried out with minimal preparation. In its ultra-modest way, pic joins the family of films from “Torn Curtain” to Kieslowski’s “A Short Film About Killing” in which dispatching a life with one’s bare hands is hard work.

The Hours of the Day

Directors Fortnight / Spain

Production

A Fresdeval Films, In Vitro Films production. (International sales: Bavaria, Berlin.) Produced by Ricard Figueras, Jaime Rosales. Executive producer, Maria Jose Diez. Directed by Jaime Rosales. Screenplay, Enric Rufas, Rosales.

Crew

Camera (color), Oscar Duran; editor, Nino Martinez; art director, Leo Casamitjana; sound (Dolby), Eva Valina; associate producer, Jose Maria de Orbe; assistant director, Alex Vila; casting, Pep Armengol. Reviewed at Forum des Images, Paris, May 5, 2003. (In Cannes Film Festival -- Directors Fortnight.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Alex Brendemuhl, Agata Roca, Maria Antonia Martinez, Pape Monsoriu, Vicente Romero, Irene Belza, Anna Sahun, Isabel Rocati, Armando Aguirre.

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