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Cannes Film Review: ‘Barefoot in the Kitchen’

Diego Galan's documentary offers only the most superficial glimpse at trends in post-1930 Spanish cinema.

Narrator: Carlos Hipolito.

Tracing the changing image of women through Spanish cinema post-1930 is a nice idea, but Diego Galan’s “Barefoot in the Kitchen” loosely organizes clips from 180 movies without going into any depth. Offering only the most superficial glimpse at trends while relying on nostalgia-drenched cinephilic memory to gloss over its massive gaps in history and analysis, the docu will appeal only to train-spotter types looking for favorite scenes perfunctorily placed into a chronology rather than an educational structure. More was expected from respected critic Galan; Spanish TV will be the sole taker.

Carlos Hipolito, as narrator, sketchily guides viewers across the decades, beginning in the early 1930s and the Second Republic, when films featuring fallen women alternated with perky, wholesome optimists — very much like pre-Code pics in the U.S. With the Spanish Civil War came a slew of patriotic themes that led to a return to traditional roles under the Franco regime, when marriage was enshrined as the ultimate goal for womankind. By the 1970s a more permissive attitude took hold, uneasily sharing screentime with movies depicting violence against women. With the restoration of the constitutional monarchy came more empowered femme protags along with the strength of Pedro Almodovar’s heroines (the helmer’s brother Agustin is one of the docu’s producers).

Galan fails to put Spain in a more international context, just as he neglects the nuances of representation and the influence of the Catholic Church. Films that bucked trends are ignored, history is telescoped, and directors aren’t mentioned apart from Almodovar. The clips themselves are often enjoyable — who wouldn’t want to watch Maria Felix in “Mare Nostrum,” or Marisa Paredes in “All About My Mother”? — yet no one will come away from “Barefoot” feeling any the wiser, and often it seems as if certain scenes were included as mere camp diversions, to be laughed at for their “dated” social mores.

Print quality varies among the excerpts, each film identified via cheap graphics with title and date only. The Spanish-lingo title, translated as “with a broken leg,” comes from a sexist saying opining that a good, honest woman is best kept in the confines of her home — an even nastier expression than “barefoot in the kitchen.”

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Cannes Film Review: 'Barefoot in the Kitchen'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Cannes Classics), May 21, 2013. Running time: 86 MIN. Original title: "Con la pata quebrada"

Production: (Documentary – Spain) An Enrique Cerezo Producciones, El Deseo production. Produced by Enrique Cerezo, Agustin Almodovar.

Crew: Directed, written by Diego Galan. Camera (B&W/color); editor, Juan Barrero; music, Bernardo Bonezzi.

With: Narrator: Carlos Hipolito.

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