Review: ‘Tramontana’

The Madonna-whore complex of an entire Spanish village is explored, "Rashomon"-style, in Dutch documaker Ramon Gieling's fascinating but uneven fiction feature.

The Madonna-whore complex of an entire Spanish village is explored, “Rashomon”-style, in Dutch documaker Ramon Gieling’s fascinating but uneven fiction feature “Tramontana.” In a series of tableaux, the contempo inhabitants of the northern town of Cadaques argue about the true nature of the relationship between a Franco-era artist and an equally inscrutable young lass that abruptly ended when the artist was found hanged. Multifaceted perf by “Volver” thesp Yohana Cobo, incarnating several wildly different variations on the girl, will hook fest auds, but this enigmatic work will rep a tougher sell elsewhere.

The villagers agree on one thing: Pepet Tremolls (Lluis Soler, good) was a middle-aged artist who took a special interest in youthful local flower Rosa (Cobo). But all other details concerning their rapport and his death are up for discussion. Writer-helmer Gieling provides several possibilities in nimble flashbacks, but no real answers or suspense; still, his portrait of a closed community that thrives on hearsay and gossip feels true. Cobo is aces, and her perf (reminiscent of her work with Carlos Saura) largely papers over occasionally pedestrian helming and clumsy framing. Rest of the tech package is unpretentious.




A Wild Bunch Benelux release of a Pieter van Huystee Film & TV presentation and production, in association with Boeddhistische Omroep Stichting. (International sales: Pieter van Huystee Film & TV, Amsterdam.) Produced by van Huystee. Directed, written by Ramon Gieling.


Camera (color), Goert Giltay; editor, Boris Gerrets; music, Paul M. van Brugge; art director, Guus van Geffen; costume designer, Bernadette Corstens. Reviewed on DVD, Utrecht, Netherlands, Sept. 30, 2009. (In Netherlands Film Festival -- opener.) Spanish, English dialogue. Running time: 98 MIN.


Yohana Cobo, Lluis Soler, Pepa Lopez, Blanca Martinez, Pep Molina, Gorka Lasaosa, Sebastian Haro.
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