Sunday, August 15, 2010

La Movida Madrileña: EL CALENTITO

El Calentito (2005), directed by Chus Gutiérrez (Spanish with subtitles) is a gem of a movie. It revolves around a "girl group" in early post-Franco Spain. The viewer can honestly delight in the exuberance of freedom, observing people as they wriggle free of Spain's fascist legacy. The film also carries a punk ethos; or more precisely, it shows the punk/New Wave music scene refracted through Spanish sensibilities. It's packed with innocent excitement and frenetic energy.

El Cantito (named after the club where the volatile band Las Siux cuts its teeth) has an additional element that other period movies don't: an attempted fascist coup before and during an important gig on February 23, 1981. This historical backdrop gives Gutiérrez's film extra kick.

The "girls" steal the show from the guys as far as viewer attention -- hard to beat their fully outfitted punk charisma. Verónica Sánchez plays protagonist Sara, transforming from sheltered student to vibrant performer; Macarena Gómez plays Leo, the troupe's comedian; Ruth Díaz's Carmen fronts the band (my personal favorite in the movie); Nuria González plays transvestite bar owner Antonio; Lluvia Rojo (Chus) quits the band early but remains on the tightly sprung scene to cause trouble later.

I particularly like how El Cantito avoids the usual Hollywood us vs. them gangs, opting instead to explore the tensions between freedom and play vs. tradition and fear of change. And the atmosphere is pitch perfect -- true in spirit to how the European music scene actually played back in 1981.

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.   (Based on August 15, 2007 post).

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