viernes, 6 de julio de 2012

Cría cuervos

Cría Cuervos... [Cría cuervos] (The Criterion Collection DVD, 2007)
Directed by Carlos Saura
Spain, 1976
In Spanish with optional English subtitles

I wish I could find the interview with Carlos Saura that I came across years and years ago in which he talked about narrating Cría cuervos in such a way that it would reflect the admiration he felt for some of the storytelling innovations of the Latin American writers who were coming into vogue in his native Spain in the 1960s.  Until that time, I'll just note that one of the many, many things I love about this movie--culturally one of the most Spanish of all Spanish films of the era because of its veiled but ultimately scathing critique of the upper echelons of Franco's Spain in a work shot just a couple of months prior to the dictator's death and the beginning of the eventual transition to democracy for the country--is its blend of an intense, almost claustrophobic interiority with some conceptually showy Boom-like narrative devices that play with the concepts of time, memory, and reality in an unusually sophisticated manner for a motion picture.  Ironically, in terms of its plot the film would seem to be a rather simple affair at heart: three young girls at home on vacation from school find themselves suddenly orphaned after their father, a military man, dies of an apparent heart attack while in bed with his best friend's wife.  What complicates matters is that the middle of the three daughters, the eight year old Ana (Ana Torrent, in an unbelievably riveting performance), believes that she's responsible for her father's death for reasons that I won't go into here.  Fascinatingly, what haunts Ana isn't guilt for the imagined patricide but the painful memory of the loss of her mother to an incurable illness some time previously.  I say "fascinatingly" because the angelic-looking creature not only "sees" her mother frequently despite her older sister's reminder that their mother is dead, but she thinks that she can bring her back on demand with just a blinking of her eyes.  Saura takes this somber premise and, with the help of a terrific cast, a deliberate pace that allows events to unfold naturally, and a sublime score that never fails to wow me, masterfully turns it into a wrenching meditation on abandonment and loss.  While almost all of the action takes place in a grand but inordinately funereal old house in Madrid's embassy district, the story shifts back and forth in time in that it's told from the perspectives of the eight-year old Ana and the adult Ana (a wonderful Geraldine Chaplin, who also plays the deceased mother María in one of many Borgesian mirror image homages evident throughout the work) some twenty years later.  At the same time, it also shifts back and forth in space because the troubled Ana, who comes to believe that she holds the keys to life and death over other members of her family just as she thinks she did with her father, increasingly finds it difficult to differentiate between what's real and what's only memory in the eerie inner world where her dead parents walk in and out of her waking hours like something straight out of Pedro Páramo.  Superb.  (The Criterion Collection)

Ana

Cría cuervos, whose title comes from the Spanish proverb "Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos" ["Raise ravens, and they'll pluck your eyes out"], is being dissected on many blogs this week as part of the Spanish Lit Month activities.  I'll link other posts to the movie below as soon as I find out about them, but please feel free to join in on the discussions at the various blogs whether you've reviewed the movie yourself or not.

Other Cría cuervos posts

10 comentarios:

  1. Hm, possibly I should watch it again keeping the political context more in mind. I wasn't really thinking much about Franco when I was watching the movie, just watching it as a psychological thriller/creeper, as Ana's story rather than that of Spain. (You know what movie I just realized CC reminded me of very strongly in terms of its psychological message and its visual appearance, is Harold and Maude, though of course they diverge a fair bit at the end. Nice insight about the end of the movie in your comment at my post.)

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    1. I think the anti-Franco stuff is mostly in the background, Jeremy, at least inasmuch as it's Ana's story that's foregrounded. Of course, she's one of the children of the Franco era (as per my comment on your blog): right wing military father + a mother who had few choices for fulfillment outside her role in the home. That Ana wanted to kill her father was prob. at least partially symbolic. Anyway, thanks for watching the movie with the group!

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  2. (Come to think of it -- I am probably likewise guilty of missing or paying insufficient attention to political content in Harold and Maude.)

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    1. I haven't seen Harold and Maude in decades, so I can't rember what you could possibly be talking about! :D

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  3. I find your opening sentence interesting because, now that you say that, I can see that, or a least a sort of literary influence on the film. It's interesting to think about--I wonder if I would have liked Cría cuervos better had it actually been a piece of literature rather than film? Also, perhaps I should watch it again sometime after I've better familiarized myself with both the Franco era and Boom lit.

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    1. I usually like the books way more than their film adaptations, Amanda, although in this (hypothetical) case I'm not so sure--the various performances, the song by Jeanette, the score all hooked me in a way that it would be difficult for me to imagine an author achieving at the same visceral level. In any event, I appreciate you "watching along" as I hope I've already told you before. Cheers! P.S. Víctor Erice's 1973 The Spirit of the Beehive, yet another film starring the child Ana Torrent, is another fine work from the same era but set at the beginning of the Franco era rather than the end. I'd highly recommend it for whenever you're not too partied out on Spanish cinema. :D

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  4. I ve not watched this as unable to get it I signed up to uk netflix but not on there and not copy at my library shame I ve a coupole of spanish languages films I own so will watch one and post it sorry richard ,all the best stu

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    1. Stu, no worries--however, I'm sorry to hear that the DVD was so hard to come by for you and Séamus. It's such an excellent film. I have one or two other films from Spain and Latin America that I was thinking about watching this month, so let's see if we end up watching one of the same movies by chance in the end!

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  5. Hi Richard - I just posted an (incomplete) post on this. Great recommendation and I like your comparison with Pedro Paramo.
    http://theknockingshop.blogspot.ie/2012/07/cria-cuervos.html

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    1. Séamus, very glad that you liked what you saw of the movie and very sorry that tracking down a copy in Ireland turned out to be such a hassle for you (I was under the apparently mistaken impression that a region 2 DVD of the movie had been released within the last few years--my bad).

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