Monday, 24 October 2011

Mini Reviews- Y Tu Mamá También, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Sex, Lies, and Videotape

       First, a note: I have sort of been on a movie-watching high and it's been really difficult to write any reviews because as soon as I finish one film and am thinking about reviewing it, I put on the another film and lose the chain of thought associated with the first one. So for now I'll be doing mini-reviews of films, and I'll probably do them in groups of 3s. They will have some theme running through them, according to my perception, instead of just putting them in random order or chronologically. Also, I am just going to keep doing these mini reviews until some day I decide to write a proper one for a single film, and then maybe I'll write more of these short ones. Let's see.

Y Tu Mamá También (Dir: Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)

Basic Plot- A very steamy coming-of-age tale about two reckless young friends, Julio and Tenoch, who go on a road trip across Mexico and to a seemingly made-up beach named "Heaven's Mouth" with Tenoch's cousin's wife Luisa, after she finds out that her husband has been cheating on her.

           This film was unlike any coming-of-age film I have ever seen, and by that I mean the transition in people from their childishness to maturity. And Julio and Tenoch were childish. Played by Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna respectively, we see how all both of these friends only seem to care about their girlfriends or their sex-lives or just fooling around. And generally I am not this reprimanding of people, but the backdrop of the story shows how there is a huge change going about all around Mexico and these two seem oblivious to it. I really loved the scenes explaining the lives of people during this time, and how Julio, Tenoch and Luisa just sort of drove by. Luisa is played by the gorgeous Spanish actress Maribel Verdú, who is the object of desire for both these young men. But this is where it gets interesting for me, as they both are very much her objects of desire too. We may think she goes on this slightly hedonistic trip with them to get back at her husband, but what she is really doing is experiencing life. Amidst all the sex-talk and flirting and taunting and fighting, we see how Louisa happens to these two friends, and how they change due to the most unexpected things. I personally felt bad about how different they are at the end, but c'est la vie I suppose.

             The film is directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who is superb. At the face of it, it might seem to be a simple story but it really is not. All three leads were great, but I especially loved Verdú, who I think captured the enigma and the beauty of being an older woman so effortlessly. She is so sexy and serene and funny and sad; I think she really was the backbone of this whole tale.

Rating- 8.5/10

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Dir: Pedro Almodóvar, 1988)

Basic Plot- Pepa is a television actress, whose lover Ivan has just left her. On trying to find out the truth behind where he is, she goes to his former lover Lucía's house and sees that he has a son named Carlos. Both of them later meet when he comes with his fiancée Maria, who while apartment-hunting, are looking at Pepa's penthouse. Also Pepa's friend Candela is there, trying to escape from the police for harbouring Shiite terrorists in her house as she was in love with one of them. So in all this confusion, Pepa has to bring about order, but not without having a few nervous breakdowns of her own.

           My first Almodóvar, I really did not know what to expect while going into this. All I know is that throughout the film a Tyra Banks term was going on and on in my head, the term being "fiercely real" women. That is exactly what all the women in this film were. They were beautiful and sexy, yes, but they were also mental and funny and sort of romantic to the point of becoming cynical. They were portrayed so brilliantly in this, and showed an aspect of them I don't think has been done enough justice in all the other films I have seen- the aspect of men in their lives. I mean there are so many films that tell women to "move on to better things" and care about other stuff, which is fine, but you have got to admit that men are a very integral part of their existence.

           The dialogue was so witty and I could not stop laughing through the length of the film (I can only imagine how much funnier it would be in Spanish). This film started out with being sort of a romcom, and then there was drama and comedy throughout, and it had a very thrilling ending, so I thought it had all possible aspects to a story in it. And the fact that it was women running the show never failed to amaze me. Carmen Maura was the main protagonist Pepa, and she was fantastic I thought. There were also María Barranco, Antonio Banderas, Rossy de Palma and a sort of favourite of mine in all her fabulous madness, Julieta Serrano, who played Lucía. One thing that really stood out for me were the colours in the film. I think we are going through this whole tainted lenses and HD digital camera thing right now (I'm not sure what we call it, and while the end product is enchanting, it has become repetitive for me. So to see a film in which everything is so vivid and stands out, most of all the red, which is I think to show off the sexual aspect of the film more- I welcomed it in all its unfamiliarity. Can't wait to see more of the legendary auteur's work!

Rating- 10/10 

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Dir: Steven Soderbergh, 1989)

Basic Plot- Ann and John are unhappily married. Ann is in therapy as she thinks the waste management problem in the world is more important than her sex-life, and John is sleeping with Ann's free-spirited sister Cynthia. In comes John's old school mate, Graham, who generally befuddles people as he meets them. John disapprove of him, and Ann feels like she should, but she is drawn to his simultaneous display of reserve and intense honesty. Also, as she later finds out, he makes videotapes of women talking about their sexuality. All four of their lives come together and everything changes.

          I am predicting that this film will go on to join ranks of films like Fight Club for me, in the sense that I was not really expecting anything when sitting down to watch it, and was totally blown away by what had just transpired when it ended. The story is totally unique and it is probably the sexiest film I have ever seen. The idea of sex, whether being repulsed by it or intrigued by it, is always there. And it is completely embraced without anyone trying to demean it in any way. The characters are such oddballs, especially Ann, played by Andie MacDowell and Graham, played by James Spader. I loved the innocence and the queasiness of MacDowell, and her final emancipation. James Spader, who played Graham, won numerous awards for his role, and rightly so. He walked on such a dangerous territory, because Graham had to be provocative and sensitive and aloof all at the same time, and in the right measure to make him likeable. He did exactly that. Laura San Giacomo, who I know as Julia Roberts's hooker friend in Pretty Woman, was excellent as Cynthia too in all her sensuality and was a stark contrast to her sister. The quartet is completed with Peter Gallagher, who plays the quite repulsive and well, close-minded John. 

        The film obviously brought about the indie film revolution. Without this, Pulp Fiction would have been part of the distant future. Soderbergh never expected it to be this big, winning Palme d'Or at Cannes and all, but how could it not? The concept, the budget it worked with, the actors, the filming, all were unlike anything seen then, or well anything I have seen yet. It ages beautifully, and shocks and surprises perfectly.

Rating- 10/10


  1. Great reviews. I have seen the first two. I would recommend Heartbeats and The Dreamers - which are similar to And My Mother Too.

    In terms of Pedro's work, I loved Matador - one of his earlier pieces!

    I am sure you have probably seen them all!

  2. I too absolutely love "sex, lies, and videotape"...the performances were brilliant!

  3. @mrg- Thank you so much.
    Of the films you spoke about, I've only seen The Dreamers, and that is absolutely one of my most favourite films ever. I actually go through "The Dreamer phases" where I watch it on repeat.
    Thanks for commenting.

    @Anon- Thanks. Yes, the film and the performances are excellent.
    Thanks for commenting.