The Rain From Spain

Really bad scene, here. Kind of a deal-breaker.

I occasionally review foreign films.  My reviews of them are bad, I think.  I never really know what to say.  I’m….not qualified for this.  Me critiquing foreign culture is an affront to the “art” of criticism.  As opposed to my sterling efforts with English language films (people are still talking about that time I reviewed The Next Three Days while watching Edge of Darkness). 

Even the Rain was the Spanish entry for best foreign film in 2010.  I saw a trailer for it while watching The Company Men and was intrigued.  I like to see these movies when they look at all interesting.  And this one surely did.  Muy muy.  There was a shot of a giant cross and then some angry people and I was like, “Oh yeah.  I’m seeing that.”

The movie is about a movie…..about a movie!  I actually tacked on an extra “about a movie” there.  It follows a director and producer attempting to make a film about Christopher Columbus.  They shoot in Bolivia to keep costs down, but this is during the Cochabamba water riots ten years ago.  I can’t say I remember them, but after a cursory study the situation appears to be one of the worst examples of white people gone bad in recent history.  Bolivia was forced to sell its water supply to foreign corporations, who, of course, jacked up the prices and squeezed the local population as much as possible.  Barf.  Who is in charge of these companies?  Whose idea was it to buy a country’s water, and how many promotions did they get?

This is a real drama, which I like.  And the acting was pretty good, for the most part.  There were some unfortunate exceptions.  Juan Carlos Aduviri, who is arguably the film’s protagonist, ends up being pretty bad.  He plays Daniel, a local leader of the water protests who the director casts as Hatuey, leader of the tribe who resisted Columbus.  For most of the movie Aduviri pulls off stoic with a touch of hostility well enough.  Unfortunately, his last scene requires acting chops he simply doesn’t have.  He gets exposed.  Like the Chiefs in the playoffs.  I’m sure the rest of his performance would look very different to me now if I watched it again.  This scene was really supposed to bring it all home, and it was laughable.  I literally laughed at one point (like a bitch). 

Gael Garcia Marquez as the director, Sebastian, is pretty good.  And Luis Tosa as Costa, the director, is decent.  But the movie often confuses their roles in the plot.  in some scenes Sebastian speaks up for the people’s rights, in others everyone’s well-being comes second to his own goals.  Costa, too, shifts back and forth.  You’re never quite sure which of them you’re supposed to like and which is the quasi-villain.  In the end I guess roles don’t always have to be clearly defined, but I thought this was poorly done.

The best acting by far came from Karra Elajalde as the actor cast to play Christopher Columbus.  He was damn good.  A character I really grew fond of although he wasn’t central to the plot.  More of an occassional wise sage.  I now think of him as the Spanish Michael Caine. 

The plot was solid, although message-wise, director Iciar Bollain’s reach exceeded her grasp.  Still, I was invested.  And there was some cool scenery.  I sort of feel about this movie the way I felt about The Secret In Their Eyes.  Pretty decent, a worthy effort, but not something I’m giving two thumbs up.  My hope for foreign films is always that they’ll be able to avoid the mistakes that seem to have become endemic to Hollywood.  In some ways, they do.  But I’m looking for a country whose cinema I really like, and I haven’t found that yet.  Also haven’t looked very hard.  Methinks I should spend some time sampling eastern fare.

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