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The Tit and the Moon

Mammaries light the corners of Catalan director Bigas Luna's mind if this paean to womanly orbs is any indication. A featherweight but frequently charming fairy tale about three men enamored of the same woman, "The Tit and the Moon" initially promises something of a return, after the lame bawdiness of "Golden Balls," to the wit and verve of "Jamon, Jamon," arguably Luna's best film to date. Though the promise goes a little awry along the way, this good-natured romp packs enough piquancy and earthy humor to help it bust in on selected international markets.

Mammaries light the corners of Catalan director Bigas Luna’s mind if this paean to womanly orbs is any indication. A featherweight but frequently charming fairy tale about three men enamored of the same woman, “The Tit and the Moon” initially promises something of a return, after the lame bawdiness of “Golden Balls,” to the wit and verve of “Jamon, Jamon,” arguably Luna’s best film to date. Though the promise goes a little awry along the way, this good-natured romp packs enough piquancy and earthy humor to help it bust in on selected international markets.

Opening sequence is an attention-getter, taking in the climactic moments of the Catalan sport of forming a human tower. The job of 9-year-old Tete (Biel Duran) is to climb to the top tier. Despite a fierce pep talk from his machismo-spouting father (Abel Folk), Tete can’t muster the courage to scale the final rungs, and the tower topples.

Providing the story’s narrative voice, Tete amusingly bemoans the arrival of his baby brother as something akin to a greedy piglet lapping up his mother’s milk, which he feels should be going his way. Determined to find a replacement, he makes a plaintive appeal to the moon to find him a breast to call his own. A suitable pair hits town attached to French cabaret performer Estrellita (Mathilda May), the so-called Queen of Stuttgart, who has an act with her besotted, jealous husband Maurice (Gerard Darmon).

Romantic competition comes from serenading trailer-park electrician Miquel (Miguel Poveda). But Tete’s gift to Estrellita of a pet frog prompts her — in the pic’s most outrageous moment — literally to open her maternal faucet and quench the boy’s thirst.

When the French couple’s act is unveiled — a symphony of flaming flatulence and rectal cannon tricks from Maurice, with Estrellita as ballerina backup — the pic’s gentle equilibrium and vaguely magical air take a tumble, from which it never fully recovers.

Though the cast is uniformly agreeable, with the frequently disrobed May a breezy delight, diminutive Duran provides pic’s most winning element. His innocently funny running commentary shifts attention from the story’s insubstantial nature and encourages audiences to go with its libertarian spirit as it pushes the case for all-out pursuit of sensual pleasure.

Similar to his work on “Jamon, cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine creates a glowing widescreen canvas of vivid color. Visual invention is consistently on view, from a clothesline strung with Estrellita’s rainbow of lingerie, through the garish circus atmosphere of the cabaret, to the sea of red, white and black team colors in the prologue and triumphant coda, in which Tete shimmies up the human tower.

The Tit and the Moon

(SPANISH-FRENCH)

Production: A Lolafilms (Barcelona), Cartel (Madrid)/Hugo Films (Paris) production. (International sales: Iberoamericana Films, Madrid.) Executive producer, Andres Vicente Gomez. Co-producers, Xavier Gelin, Stephane Marsil. Directed by Bigas Luna. Screenplay, Cuca Canals, Luna.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Jose Luis Alcaine; editor, Carmen Frias; music, Nicola Piovani; art direction, Aime Deude; costume design, Patricia Monne; sound (Dolby), Marc Antoine Beldent; special effects, Juan Ramon Molina; associate producers, Manuel Lombardero, Eduardo Campoy; casting, Consol Tura. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 7, 1994. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Mathilda May, Gerard Darmon, Miguel Poveda, Biel Duran, Abel Folk, Laura Mana, Genis Sanchez.

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