Debutante helmer Daniel Sanchez Arevalo more than delivers on the promise he showed with his series of well-received shorts with "Darkbluealmostblack," an assured and captivating drama that combines grit and grace into a distinctive, character-based whole.

Debutante helmer Daniel Sanchez Arevalo more than delivers on the promise he showed with his series of well-received shorts with “Darkbluealmostblack,” an assured and captivating drama that combines grit and grace into a distinctive, character-based whole. Featuring a range of attractive characters aiming at self-reinvention, tragicomic item is not content to be straight-up social realism, and essays some tricky maneuvers before coming through with flying colors. Offshore buyers seeking a glimpse of authentic new Spanish talent should take a look, while fest exposure is guaranteed. Pic took three awards at the Malaga fest.

Janitor Jorge (Quim Gutierrez) is tending to his sickly father Andres (Hector Colome), whose stroke he feels he has helped provoke and whose job he has had to take over, thus putting his own larger plans on hold.

Jailbird Paula (Marta Etura, heavily made up against type) meets Jorge’s brother Antonio (Antonio de la Torre) at a theater workshop set up for inmates, and within seconds they’re having sex in the wings.

Jorge spends his afternoons on the roof of his building with buddy Israel (Raul Arevalo). He also receives postcards from childhood sweetheart Natalia (Eva Pallares), who is studying in Germany.

The various couplings overlap into dramatically dangerous terrain that many helmers would play simply for laughs, but which here open up a series of morally complex questions on the issue of love — while delivering a few smiles along the way.

Thematically, the pic features a well-worn subject, i.e. the personal and sexual confusion of twentysomethings. But the treatment is distinctive, with plotting often working by reverse logic, where we see consequence before cause.

The story dealing with Israel’s gayness may be over-protracted, but the script gets through it with some moments of well-judged, knowing humor and searching perfs.

None of the cast are top-flighters in Spain. As the protag, Quim Gutierrez plays Jorge as softspoken and controlled, but there is a tension simmering in him that blows up over the last half hour. Antonio’s energy works in superb counterpoint, and de la Torres works him up into a fine comic creation — though he loses sympathy through the final reel. All the characters are the victims of interesting psychological conflict, the script cleverly setting them off against one another.

Visuals are sometimes authentically witty. Lensing is crisp, often using low lighting to emphasize the claustrophobia of the character’s lives, per the title. Eye-catching, fluid editing makes a key contribution to the pic’s idiosyncratic style.

Pascal Gaigne’s score, though effective, is sometimes an aural photocopy of Michael Nyman. The intriguing title refers, symbolism apart, to the color of a suit that Jorge keeps seeing in a shop window and which symbolizes his business future.

Darkbluealmostblack

Spain

Production

An Alta Classics release (in Spain) of a Tesela P.C. production with the participation of TVE, Canal Plus. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Executive producer, Jose Antonio Felez. Directed, written by Daniel Sanchez Arevalo.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Juan Carlos Gomez; editor, Nacho Ruiz Capillas; music, Pascal Gaigne; art director, Federico Garcia Cambero; sound (Dolby Digital), Jaime Barros. Reviewed at Malaga Spanish Film Festival (competing), March 23, 2006. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Quim Gutierrez, Marta Etura, Raul Arevalo, Antonio De La Torre, Hector Colome, Eva Pallares, Manuel Moron, Ana Wagener, Roberto Enriquez.

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