December 22, 2006
An odd, fun film that channels Almod�var
What sort of concoction could one produce by mixing equal parts My Own Private Idaho, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Pedro Almod�var and David Lynch?
It is questions like this that have perplexed humanity since the beginning of its days, when cave paintings of animals were the first entertainment.
Okay, maybe since the early �90s, when three of those four things first became part of the mass consciousness.
Regardless, the answer would have to be 20 Centimeters, now out on DVD from TLA Releasing, those fine folks who brought us Another Gay Movie and Latter Days.
Marieta (M�nica Cervera) seems to have it all, in an odd, indie-film sort of way: an apartment with interesting neighbors who yell obscenities at each other, custody of her friend�s young son, a fine job as a popular prostitute, eight inches of rock-hard manhood she�s saving up to get rid of, a very attractive boyfriend who is a dwarf, a raging case of narcolepsy . . .
Ah, that �rock-hard manhood.� It�s the 20 centimeters of the title. Marieta is a preoperative transsexual who plans to undergo gender reassignment surgery within a year--if her boyfriend T�mas� (Miguel O'Dogherty) get-rich-quick scheme works or he stops borrowing money from her, whichever comes first.
(For those keeping score of which facets are which in the first paragraph, we�ve pretty much hit all of them: Almod�var because it�s Spanish and queer and funny, Private Idaho because of the narcoleptic prostitute, Hedwig for genital measurements and David Lynch because of the dwarf. Come on--everyone remembers the dream sequences in Twin Peaks! �I am the Arm.�)
Writer-director Ram�n Salazar, though, could not leave the convoluted tale alone at that. Oh, no. He tosses in a bit of Bollywood to really make a mountain out of a moderately-sized hill.
Whenever she has a narcoleptic episode, Marieta dreams musical numbers featuring Spanish, British and American pop songs. Big production numbers with dancers and the works.
To complicate matters, Marieta succumbs to her malady in the supermarket just as the hunky studmuffin stock clerk (Pablo Puyol) is delivering a case of strawberries, which incidentally has Marieta�s �boy-name� Adolfo written on the side.
Marieta hits the floor, the musical number starts, and she later awakes at the clerk�s apartment. The good Samaritan took her home when she lost consciousness.
He is quite smitten with Marieta. He can find no fault with her, nothing that he doesn�t like about her. There is not one centimeter of her body that he dislikes, although he has his favorite 20.
This leaves Marieta with a difficult choice: follow her life-long aspirations and get the surgery, or forge a new happiness as she is with the clerk?
Salazar has crafted quite a film here. There are so many disparate elements coming into play, so many different styles of cinematography, that reading the subtitles almost takes a back seat to figuring out what the heck is happening. Seriously, one ill-timed blink, and suddenly Marieta is singing Madonna songs and people are dancing for no apparent reason.
The stark contrasts between the grit and grime of the real world and the dazzling colors of Marieta�s dreams are a metaphor for the dismal life she has, of which she is trying to make the best, and the glory she believes she will achieve once she is �fully� a woman.
Salazar picked a winner with Cervera, who can sing an array of styles and acts her role as if born to it.
After watching this funny, quirky film, one would have to say that should Pedro Almod�var ever need a successor, Salazar is the most obvious choice.