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Wounded Animals

What begins as a playful excursus on an extra-marital affair takes a sharp turn to more troubled psychological landscapes in vet helmer Ventura Pons' latest relationship juggler, "Wounded Animals."

With:
With: Jose Coronado, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Cecilia Rossetto, Marc Cartes, Cristina Plazas, Patricia Arredondo, Gerardo Zamora, Aina Clotet, Francesc Albiol, Teresa Manresa, Paul Berrondo, Sue Flack, Abel Folk. (Catalan, Spanish dialogue)

What begins as a playful excursus on an extra-marital affair takes a sharp turn to more troubled psychological landscapes in vet helmer Ventura Pons’ latest relationship juggler, “Wounded Animals.” Structured as a musical composition complete with movement notations as chapter headings, handsomely mounted roundelay boasts a top-notch ensemble cast and a densely witty narration, though the poignancy occasionally sits uncomfortably with earlier broad characterizations, and some depth gets lost amid the frippery. Despite a mediocre performance locally, pic could see moderate Euro play thanks to increasing popularity of Spanish lingo titles.

Upbeat opening mirrors the jazzy bossa nova soundtrack, as wealthy businessman Silvio (Jose Coronado) prepares to meet his longtime mistress, interior designer and “goddess of good taste” Claudia (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon). The two have a regular rendezvous in a hotel room overlooking Silvio’s home, so he can use binoculars to spy on his bored wife Marcia (Cecilia Rossetto).

Wry omniscient narrator Abel Folk’s amusing commentary turns the audience into co-conspirators, as Silvio is presented as a likeable, naughty middle-aged boy. But Silvio’s perverse pleasure in seeing his wife down below, just after going at it with Claudia, signals a change in the audience’s sympathetic outlook.

Pic’s second movement looks at married couple Irina (Cristina Plazas) and Daniel (Marc Cartes), pic’s least developed characters. She’s a receptionist at the hotel Silvio frequents, and he’s an associate of Claudia’s. A quiet holiday is meant to revivify their tired relationship, but just when Daniel gets inspired by a little passion, he spies his wife all hot and heavy with a fitness instructor.

The last players are Silvio’s Mexican maid Mariela (Patricia Arredondo) and her Peruvian b.f., recent emigre Jorge Washington (Gerardo Zamora). The latter is particularly well-drawn as a man still amazed at the abundance on offer in first world Spain.

Obviously inspired by “Magnolia” (all it lacks is Aimee Mann singing that one is the loneliest number), “Wounded Animals” holds its own thanks to the skill with which Pons (and regular editor Pere Abadal) dexterously weave the stories together, gradually adding details until a complex tapestry is formed. But not all sections present vivid colors, and the amusing over-the-top characterizations found in the first half — in particular Rossetto’s Almodovar-esque wife — occasionally feel like they’ve barreled in from another movie.

Superb cast includes well-known thesps such as Coronado (breezy and full of charm) and Sanchez-Gijon (“I’m Not Scared”) as well as relative unknowns on the international circuit, like the warmly appealing Arredondo.

Lensing is cleanly fluid and controlled. Production designer Bel.lo Torras’ sets perfectly capture the social-climbing pretensions of the nouveau riche, while music is well matched to each section’s moods.

Wounded Animals

Spain

Production: A Filmax release (in Spain) of an Els Films de la Rambla production, in association with Television Espanola, Televisio de Catalunya. (International sales: Latido-Latin Beat, Madrid.) Produced, directed, written by Ventura Pons, based on three stories from the book "Animals tristos" by Jordi Punti.

Crew: Camera (color), Rafa Lluch; editor, Pere Abadal; music, Carles Cases; production designer, Bel.lo Torras; costume designer, Nuria Cardoner; sound (Dolby Digital), Natxo Ortuzar; casting, Luci Lenox. Reviewed at Mar del Plata Film Festival (noncompeting), Argentina, March 11, 2006. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 92 MIN.

With: With: Jose Coronado, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Cecilia Rossetto, Marc Cartes, Cristina Plazas, Patricia Arredondo, Gerardo Zamora, Aina Clotet, Francesc Albiol, Teresa Manresa, Paul Berrondo, Sue Flack, Abel Folk. (Catalan, Spanish dialogue)

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