Film Scouts Diaries

1995 San Sebastian Film Festival Diaries
Film Scouts on a Sea of Sangria III

by Karen Jaehne

Mujeres Insumisas...Untamed Women...Insubordinate Femmes...

When Pedro Almodovar was asked what he liked about the San Sebastian Festival, he quipped, "It's a great place for Spanish actresses to be seen!" With the Hispanic market tickling the palms of people trying to get to it, looking at it's women is a good place to start. Even through the documentary about Carmen Miranda seemed to have a following, nothing like her can be seen here.

SALMA HAYEK is the most visibly successful in Hollywood, after her role in DESPERADO and the biggest pic in Mexico last year, EL CALLEJON DE LOS MILAGROS, based on the Nobel prize book, ALLEY OF MIRACLES. Salma has a snappy but subversive sex appeal that could take her beyond the Hispanic market.

At a similar career point is ALTANA SANCHEZ-GUION, the beautiful bride in a WALK IN THE CLOUDS. The pouty ingenue is also in an Argentine western by Adolfo Aristarian and is about to open in "CAT ON A HOT TIM ROOF IN MADRID." That may layer in some erotic mystery which is now missing.

ADRIANA GIL is a comer, playing a mezzo-soprano in MECANICAS CELESTAS. She is painfully beautiful and seems to have an ocean of sound with her, giving body to this flip comedy. But she is either near-sighted or looking into other worlds, because she never connects with the other characters. Sheis just too gentle.

Probably anybody wanting to cast a Hispanic actress would first call Almodovar, since he seems to have been the queen maker. We all remember await he did for Carmen Maura: she has deft acting ability, but will she ever be anything but the women on the verge. She's gained weight and trying to be a sex bomb. The telling word here is bomb. She is in a movies called the limp PIGEON or lame duck or something that makes you not want to see it.

Almodovar's current launch is MARISA PAREDES, star of LA FLORA DE MI SECRETO, and she has a depth worth delving into. The secrecy of a mature, passionate woman lurks behind her terrified eyes. and she could easily be Mrs. Robinson.

The most impressive performance by an utterly selfless actress in this festival came from PILAR BARDEM, an actress with some 30 years behind her, including a political life that seems to have given nobility and dignity to her persona. She plays the old mother-in-law In NOBODY WILL KNOW US WHEN WERE DEAD, and her suicide is incredible, raising out of a deep sorrow. She takes the weeping mama of La Bamba to a level of Respect.

Opposite Pilar Bardem In nobody is Spain's number one darling, VICTORIA ABRIL, who can be seen in two films in competition here-one for the action heroine and for the sex goddess that we saw in her from her role in Almodovar's TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN. Victoria is hands down sexy but is also too thin right now to recapture her appealing quality of her earlier films.

The long hot summer was claimed by ANA BELEN in a film called TURKISH PASSION, a flat-out soft core, romance of a movie about a frustrated housewife who falls in love with a Turkish tour guide and abandons her and hubby for him, only to be exploited, abused and left loveless....and she likes it that way! Ana Belen used to play beautifully delicate women in the films of a previous generation of Spanish directors. She stands as a warning symbol to what can happen if that Spanish fly gets into your career.

For example, Mexican actress Margarita Isabel, also in two films here (playing herself both times, seems to be ossified into a Liz Taylor wannabe but comes across as the yenta neighbor who gives you advise on how to get your man.

The most complex case is still AGNELA MOLINA, who since WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, can't escape a certain self-conscious masochism. Her neurotic quality is inescapable and perfect for certain kinds of roles, but she's too anorexic to be sexy anymore.

And if you're looking for something instantly bankable...try Helena Bonham-Carter. Turns out she speaks perfect Spanish from having a Spanish mother. These mujeres insumisaa have no end of surprises!

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