×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Carmina or Blow Up

In tough times, Spaniards turn to family, which is just what thesp-turned-helmer Paco Leon has done with his distinctive, enjoyable debut, "Carmina or Blow Up."

With:
With: Carmina Barrios, Maria Leon, Paco Casaus, Ana Maria Garcia.

In tough times, Spaniards turn to family, which is just what thesp-turned-helmer Paco Leon has done with his distinctive, enjoyable debut, “Carmina or Blow Up.” Star of the show is Leon’s larger-than-life mother, Carmina Barrios, around whom he’s built a quirky contraption that’s part character study, part faux docu, part homage to the Andalucian picaresque tradition and part lively love letter to Mom. Pic depends entirely on whether the public feels affection for its exuberant, motormouthed protag, which Spanish auds have done, suggesting that fests, too, might fall for “Carmina.”

A 58-year-old bar owner, Carmina (Barrios) sits in her Seville kitchen, chain-smoking and musing on life while feeding the goat that lives with her. Her daughter, spirited single mom Maria (Barrios’ real-life daughter, Maria Leon, who was lauded for her perf in Benito Zambrano’s “The Sleeping Voice”), likewise introduces herself to the camera, as does Carmina’s ne’er-do-well, heavy-drinking husband, Antonio (Paco Casaus, a family friend).

The slim plotline, which takes a backseat to character observation, recounts the story of Carmina’s attempts to make up for the money lost after 80 hams were stolen from her bar. Flashbacks recap brief, telling events in Carmina’s life, showing her defiance and cunning at sidestepping misfortune. When a debt collector comes, she hits herself over the head with a bottle and accuses him of attacking her. She’s taken to the hospital after accidentally drinking a douche solution. According to the helmer, some of these things actually took place, but he’s coy about which ones.

Although Barrios won the actress award at the Malaga fest, Carmina is mostly just being herself. She’s the kind of resilient, good-hearted and unintentionally hilarious femme character whom Pedro Almodovar has made a career out of celebrating. Raunchy, continually complaining about her ailments, hypercritical of others but still defensive of her worthless hubby, she delivers a string of pearls of Andalucian wit and wisdom: “I’m not fat,” she says. “I’m the very opposite of anorexic.”

Pic is strongest during her direct-address monologues. Casaus’ almost incoherent speech, which includes the lovely line “Life is so lovely, it almost seems real,” introduces a note of tenderness, while a first communion celebration, featuring a potent flamenco cante from Maria, shows that it’s not all about the grim struggle for survival; pic is thankfully low on direct social commentary.

For the record, this low-budget item is the first Spanish film to be released simultaneously in theaters, DVD, on pay TV and online, with positive first-weekend results that suggest a new distribution model for the Spanish industry. The untranslatable Spanish title is a pun on Vicente Aranda’s 1987 movie “El Lute: Camina o revienta.”

Carmina or Blow Up

Spain

Production: An Alta Classics release of a Jaleo Films, Andy Joke production. (International sales: Jaleo Films, Seville.) Executive producers, Alvaro Alonso, Paco Leon, Paloma Juanes. Directed, written by Paco Leon.

Crew: Camera (color), Juan Gonzalez; editor, Ana Alvarez Ossorio-Hengst; music, Pony Bravo; art director, Antonio Estrada; costume designer, Esther Vaquero; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel de Zayas; supervising sound editor, Pelayo Gutierrez; assistant director, Laura Alvea. Reviewed at Cines Golem, Madrid, July 3, 2012. (In Malaga Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 70 MIN.

With: With: Carmina Barrios, Maria Leon, Paco Casaus, Ana Maria Garcia.

More Film

  • Rosie Day, Harriet Sanson Harris, Natalia

    Rosie Day, Harriet Sanson Harris, Natalia Tena Set For Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s Thriller ‘Baby’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES– Rosie Day (“Outlander”), Harriet Sanson Harris (“Phantom Thread”) and Natalia Tena (“Game of Thrones”) will star in Spaniard Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s psychological thriller “Baby,” Variety has learned exclusively. The project will be pitched on May 19 at Fantastic 7, a new Cannes initiative seeing seven of the world’s most prestigious fantastic festivals back and [...]

  • Polish Fest’s Industry Event Presents Upcoming

    New Horizons’ Polish Days Goes to Cannes With Five Films in Progress

    CANNES  —  Buoyed by a wave of international successes, including Pawel Pawlikowski’s 2019 foreign-language Oscar nominee “Cold War,” Polish cinema will get a fitting showcase Sunday morning with the presentation of five new projects at New Horizons’ Polish Days Goes to Cannes. Organized in conjunction with the Polish Film Institute, Polish Days is the most important [...]

  • Cannes, Annecy Animation Day Hosts ‘Bob

    Coala to Pitch ‘Bob Spit: We Do Not Like People’ at Cannes, Annecy Animation Day

    São Paulo-based Coala Filmes impressed in the series competition at last year’s Annecy Intl. Film Festival with an episode of their popular stop-motion series “Angeli the Killer,” based on the famous comics of the Brazilian comic-book writer of the same name. This year, the film’s director Cesar Cabral and producer Ivan Melo are participating in [...]

  • Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich’s $100 Million

    Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich’s $100 Million Film Fund Launches

    CANNES  —  Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s $100 million private film fund Kinoprime is ready for business, the fund’s CEO, Anton Malyshev, said in Cannes this week. Financed to the tune of $100 million over the next three years, the fund can provide up to 50% of a film’s production budget, with a $2 million cap [...]

  • Russian Helmer of Blockbuster ‘Stalingrad’ Looks

    Russia’s Fedor Bondarchuk Unveils Four New Films in Cannes

    CANNES  —  Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk introduced four new productions from his Art Pictures Studio Saturday in Cannes, including “Attraction 2,” the sequel to his 2017 sci-fi blockbuster. The invitation-only showcase at the Gray d’Albion hotel also unveiled footage from three new features that Bondarchuk is either directing or producing. Sci-fi thriller “Sputnik” is the story [...]

  • "The Whistlers" Review: The Romanian New

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Whistlers'

    With all due respect to Lauren Bacall, there’s always been a bit more to whistling than putting your lips together and blowing. Certainly for Cristi (Vlad Ivanov), the corrupt Bucharest policeman embroiled in a comically complex plot to get a local gangster off the hook in Corneliu Porumboiu’s Cannes competition title “The Whistlers,” it is [...]

  • 'Vivarium' Review: Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen

    Cannes Film Review: 'Vivarium'

    Ah, the suburbs. The rec rooms and Formica kitchens and manicured lawns. The cozy suffocating middle-class conformity. The way they once stood for everything that was worth rebelling against. For decades, the suburbs have been the ultimate cheap-shot movie punchline — not just a location but a state of mind, a place to thumb our [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content