February 7, 2008



Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***½

Accumulating yet more evidence for the rising reputation of Spanish cinema, DarkBlueAlmostBlack is also a movie about which you'll want to know very few plot particulars prior to viewing. Reading a synopsis of events makes the film sound relatively ridiculous, and yet writer/director Daniel Sánchez Arévalo tells his story so cleverly and interestingly that you will most likely go along with each bizarre step in this tale of two families fractured by everything from prison to proper employment, homosexuality to infertility. Arévalo hooks you on feelings first, so that--no matter how strange events become--you'll care too much for the characters to object too strenuously to what they do. Given the manner in which the movie proceeds, in fact, their actions are actually not so far afield.

The title refers to that in-between color of the kind of dress suit desired by our hero (played with a lovely combination of shyness, tact and sex appeal by Quim Gutiérrez): a combination doorman/janitor who longs for a white-collar job. His brother (Antonio de la Torre) is soon to finish a prison term, while his best friend Israel (the terrific young actor--and possibly the brother of the director?--Rául Arévalo ) is having some problems concerning the sexual practices of his father (played by the wonderful Manuel Moron). The distaff side, equally well-cast, features Marta Etura, Eva Pallarés, Ana Wagener and Natalia Mateo. So finely-tuned is each performance and so well do we come to understand these characters, that when--as life will have it--not all of them get what they want and need, we feel their pain as acutely as they do.

I don't want to make this movie appear to be all grief and sorrow, for there’s plenty of humor, too--often in or around the most painful moments. Dark Blue Almost Black won Goya awards for its director and for actors Gutiérrez and de la Torre, as well as nominations for Etura, screenplay and music--plus 13 other wins at various festivals from Stockholm and Venice. While it clearly was not an unknown quantity either to Spaniards or to much of the European community, over here in the USA, where foreign films continue to make nowhere near the noise they should, it sank with little trace. Now that Strand is giving it a DVD release, queue up--and I’ll bet you'll make some noise of your own.

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Posted by cphillips at February 7, 2008 5:45 PM