The Pain in Spain

1 Sep 2013: The Place Without Limits (DVD, 1977, Arturo Ripstein)

Some striking art direction and color palettes as well as effective use of wide lenses make this film cinematographically rewarding to a certain degree, and the exact relations between characters possess a mysterious intrigue, but on the whole nothing ever quite locks into deep resonance. Perhaps an ignorance of Spanish society at the time the film was released makes such attunement impossible to achieve even when the people and situations appear as bizarre and suggestive as they do here – an aged transvestite, the anciano mayor of the parochial town, a young truck driver and his businessman brother-in-law, hookers, all interwoven with money and recriminations. Though it’s always easy to form meanings with a little effort after the fact, at the time these proceedings feel overly talky without much said that is either direct or of particular interest (more of the time we hear lectures, small talk or insults). Although the hate crime committed near the end is painful and arouses empathy, something about it feels too exploitative and calculatingly cynical (see The Celluloid Closet) – something I felt also about Berlanga’s Tamaño regular, another late Franco-era film from Spain – to register as profound or even tragedic.

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