An oddball yet endearing same-road-over-and-over-again movie.
To maintain his team’s winning streak, a pudgy Catalan soccer fan continuously drives in circles around the FC Barcelona stadium in “Johan1, ” an oddball yet endearing same-road-over-and-over-again movie from Dutch scribe-helmer Johan Kramer. Protag’s literally stuck in a routine, though throwaway conversations with the eccentric locals he meets on his numerous daily rounds, including a windshield-washing Goth girl, slowly make him come unstuck. Local June 17 opening was soft, and pic won’t be embraced by vuvuzela-wielding fans offshore, but should nonetheless round up interest from fests and Eurotube buyers.
Man-boy and soccer fanatic Juan Puig (Jose Luis Adserias) prefers to be called Johan, after Johan Neeskens, who was FC Barcelona’s “Johan the Second” (the first being star player Johan Cruyff in the 1970s). His devotion to the long-retired Dutch player is tied to his family history, as his largely silent mother (Cecile Heuer) is also from the Netherlands.
Puig Sr. is no longer alive, though his presence can clearly be felt in the passenger seat of Johan’s Citroen 2CV, a little Barca shrine on wheels bedecked with soccer paraphernalia and painted in the club’s trademark red and blue stripes. During Johan’s childhood, a single drive around the stadium with his dad would be followed by a victory, and Johan is now convinced that his numerous daily rounds will keep the club from losing.
The soccer fan’s corpulence makes it difficult for him to get in and out of his tiny vehicle (and visually highlights his inertia and sense of being boxed in), so he prefers to just stay there, even during repairs or when he gets his hair cut. That his soccer fanaticism is really just an excuse he hides behind becomes clear when he remains in his car even when Barca plays, his mother communicating the score by showing him panels from her window.
There are no shocking revelations or unexpected twists on Johan’s road to redemption, but because Kramer cleverly underlines Johan’s repetitive routine in his choice of images and editing, it does feel like a major relief when the locals, led by chipper window-washer Paquita (Aurora Cayero), start to chip away at Johan’s rigid habits.
Though Cayero plays her character too broadly, especially opposite the beautifully understated, touching work of Adserias, Paquita’s appearance (she looks like a cross between Little Red Riding Hood and punk hacker Lisbeth Salander from the “Millennium” movies) and good cheer do provide some much-needed energy and the means for a modest catharsis. Supporting actors enjoyably play their variations on the same basic conversation with Johan each time he passes, with Pau Miro a standout as a blabbermouth bar owner.
Pic was shot on a 16mm Bolex, which makes it look like an old Polaroid come to life, though the camera’s better suited to the daytime scenes than the moments after sundown, when the image turns very grainy and details are lost in the murk. Production design is aces, and music by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, has a nice locally inspired flavor.
For the record, helmer Johan Kramer is a Neeskens fan like his protag, and also adopted the moniker Johan as a child; his birth name is Jan Jasper Kramer.