That this dark little yarn is set under a bright sun is only the first of multiple ironies of “The Wooden Box.” Striking debut by writer-director Juan Carlos Falcon, about the effects on the local community of the death of a Canary Islands villager, shows the seriocomic spirit of Luis Berlanga lives on in Spanish cinema. Black humor, drama and social critique combine in a ’60s-set item whose well-turned script, fine perfs and peculiarly Spanish air should find fest play.
Don Lucio is found dead and taken back to the house of his widow, Eloisa (Angela Molina); the wake is to be held at the house of neighbor Isabel (Elvira Minguez). Their neighbors, including Benigna (Antonia San Juan) and elderly Josefa (Maria Galiana) come to pay respects to the wealthy Lucio, who was hated by everyone for being a blackmailer. The savagery beneath the surface of this apparently peaceful coastal village is beautifully demonstrated, and there’s a fair deal of intrigue along the way. Playing is tops down the line, and only an unlikely love affair mars the writing. Lensing highlights the bleached landscapes of the Canaries.
— Jonathan Holland