×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cravan vs. Cravan

Isaki Lacuesta's debut documentary, "Cravan vs. Cravan," spins a riveting hour and a half out of the strange life and stranger death of the marginal figure of Arthur Cravan, the early 20th-century poet, boxer and Dadaist who made his life his art.

With:
With: Frank Nicotra, Eduardo Arroyo, Maria Lluisa Borras, Enric Casassas, Juli Lorente. (Spanish, Catalan, French, English dialogue.)

Isaki Lacuesta’s debut documentary, “Cravan vs. Cravan,” spins a riveting hour and a half out of the strange life and stranger death of the marginal figure of Arthur Cravan, the early 20th-century poet, boxer and Dadaist who made his life his art. The stranger-than-fiction raw material is compelling enough in itself, but Lacuesta crafts it well, shuttling nimbly between personal recollections, old footage, talking heads and dramatic recreation in a manner which discloses something of the life of its complex subject while also contributing to the legend. Perfect for cult-seekers, pic took the public prize at the recent Sitges fest and has done low-key theatrical at home during October and November. Fest and international tube showings are its likely fate.

French boxer-turned cineaste Frank Nicotra goes in search of the elusive Cravan, who was the nephew of Oscar Wilde and whose own father disappeared when the boy (real name: Fabian Lloyd) was three months old. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Cravan ran away at 16 and traveled widely before settling in Paris where he wrote poetry, hung out with bohemians like Ravel and Duchamp, edited an alternative arts magazine, gave public speeches naked, faked his own death, tried out different personalities and honed his boxing skills.

A lengthy debate about the true origin of paintings ascribed to Cravan, and his draft dodging at the start of WWI, are the prelude to pic’s busy final half-hour, centered on his Barcelona fight with world heavyweight champ Jack Johnson (Cravan was KO’d in Round 1) and his intense relationship (here tenderly recreated) with poet/artist Mina Loy. Cravan set sail from Mexico and disappeared without trace in 1918, at age 32.

Pic raises complex issues about the way Cravan created his own myth, though without becoming philosophically abstract: There are plenty of raw facts for interviewees — including Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland; Spanish painter Eduardo Arroyo; and Juli Lorente, who attended the Cravan-Johnson bout — on which to chew.

Nictora’s close identification with Cravan generates an intimate link between the subject and the viewer, though there’s too much of Nictora’s own boxing exploits. Likewise, a series of aging Spanish pugilists reminiscing and a sequence showing bullfight gorings seem to belong in a different film.

Brief recreations of key moments bring the shaky old recordings (there are only two minutes of extant footage of the man) and blurred old photos to dramatic life, with the final 20 minutes feeling a little rushed as the out-there events pile up. For the record, one commentator theorizes Rene Clair’s surrealistic 1924 debut, “Entr’acte,” is based on Cravan’s life.

Cravan vs. Cravan

Spain

Production: A Sherlock Films release of a Mallerich Films, Paco Poch, Benece Producciones production, in association with Canal Plus, TVC. (International sales: Sherlock, Barcelona.) Executive producers, Poch, Xavier Atance. Directed, written by Isaki Lacuesta.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Gerard Gormezano; editor, Domi Parra; music, Victor Nubla, Pascal Comelade; art director, Maite Sanchez; sound, Xavi Mas. Reviewed at Cine Verdi, Madrid, Nov. 21, 2002. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: With: Frank Nicotra, Eduardo Arroyo, Maria Lluisa Borras, Enric Casassas, Juli Lorente. (Spanish, Catalan, French, English dialogue.)

More Film

  • Woolsey Fire Malibu

    Many Malibu Areas Still Off-Limits for Filming After Fire

    The California Film Commission has maintained its ban on filming in several Malibu areas hit by the massive Woolsey fire in Southern California last month. The commission announced Tuesday that due to continued clean-up and repair work along Pacific Coast Highway, permits for filming on the highway are not being issued at this time. PCH [...]

  • Against the Clock

    Film News Roundup: Andy Garcia's Spy Thriller 'Against the Clock' Bought by Gravitas

    In today’s film news roundup, Andy Garcia’s spy thriller is sold, “Battlestar Galactica” gets a screenwriter, and Brooklyn Decker gets an award. ACQUISITION More Reviews London Theater Review: 'The Cane' Film Review: 'The Wedding' Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to spy thriller “Against the Clock,” starring Andy Garcia, Dianna Agron (“Glee”), and Justin [...]

  • 'Pacific Rim Uprising' film premiere

    John Boyega in Talks to Star in Legal Drama 'A Naked Singularity'

    “Star Wars” actor John Boyega is in talks to star in the legal drama “A Naked Singularity” with Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions on board to produce. The movie is based on Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel, which centers on a successful New York public defender whose life begins to unravel after he loses [...]

  • Penny Marshall Dead Obit

    Remembering Penny Marshall, Who Forged Her Own Path and Paved the Way for Others

    She was a natural comedian — fearless and funny, willing to trade on her natural Bronx brogue to craft a sassy and street-wise character that was tailor-made for sitcoms. But Penny Marshall, who died Monday night at the age of 75, proved throughout her long career that she had so much more in the way [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Outpacing 'Wonder Woman' in Fandango Pre-Sales

    Pre-sales of “Aquaman,” which opens on Thursday night, are outpacing “Wonder Woman” at the same point in the advance ticket sales cycle on online ticketer Fandango. “Wonder Woman” opened with $103 million domestically during the June 2 to June 4, 2017, weekend on its way to a $412 million North American total for Warner Bros. “Aquaman,” [...]

  • European Union Placeholder

    Europe, Hollywood Hail Landmark E.U. Territorial Licensing Agreement

    Industry organizations and major companies in Europe and Hollywood welcomed Tuesday a high-level European Union agreement that in large part preserves producers’ ability to sell movies and TV shows on an exclusive territory-by-territory basis. Territorial licensing is a financial backbone of the film and TV business in Europe. Recognition of such licensing came last Thursday in [...]

  • Box Office: 'Aquaman,' 'Mary Poppins Returns'

    Box Office: 'Aquaman' Battles 'Mary Poppins Returns' in Crowded Holiday Weekend

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the most competitive time at the multiplexes. This weekend sees two very different heroes vying for the box office crown with “Aquaman” and “Mary Poppins Returns” both eyeing sizable debuts. “Mary Poppins Returns” is getting a head start by opening on Wednesday, though estimates show “Aquaman” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content