Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
AFI’s EU Showcase ’14: Falling Star
1870 the Duke of Aosta was elected King of Spain. If the very concept of electing
a monarch sounds weird, just wait till you get a load of the surreal treatment
he gets in Lluis Miñarro’s anti-bio-picture. His reign was short and there would
not be a King Amadeo II succeeding him. Frankly, he never had a chance to
govern in any meaningful way, as Miñarro makes crystal clear in the otherwise
subjectively hallucinatory Falling Star (trailer here), which screens
during the AFI’s 2014 EU Film Showcase.
after his parliamentary election, King Amadeo’s most influential supporter is
assassinated. Essentially, he becomes a lame duck before he is even sworn in,
without any pomp or circumstance. Arguably, the self-described “Republican King”
could have been a reformist force. He even advocated the separation of church
and state. However, the Republicans, Basques, and Catalans simply were not
having any further king business. Without a constituency, King Amadeo becomes a
veritable prisoner in his palace.
only a handful of servants and a few duplicitous ministers for company, the
King’s mind starts to wander a bit. He is plagued with bizarre nightmares and
shares some odd moments with the lusty serving wench who wanders in and out of
the picture. He perks up a little when his wife María Vittoria finally joins him,
but the die is cast.
terms of effectiveness, Amadeo is right down there with Pu Yi, but the Spanish monarchy
would rebound following his abdication and a brief Republican interregnum. In
fact, he seems ripe for critical reappraisal given his relative progressiveness,
but that is not really Miñarro’s program. Instead, he engages in the sort of
playful postmodern historical anachronisms that everyone hated in Sofia Coppola’s
also indulges in plenty of sexually charged flights of fantasy that emphasize
bizarre imagery over explicit titillation (if you want to see a man having
rough sex with a melon than you’re in business). In terms of visual composition
and Mise en scène, Falling is not so
very far removed from Albert Serra’s The Story of My Death, but Miñarro maintains a far punchier vibe (even though
not a whole heck of a lot happens in an objective sense).
Franco Nero at the peak of his popularity, Àlex Brendemühl (chilling in The German Doctor) is terrific as King
Amadeo, visibly choking down the anger and resentment of each new indignity. As
María Vittoria, Bárbara Lennie’s regal screen presence and intriguing allure
add a needed kick to the film, but none of the pervy servants are ever fleshed
out (so to speak) into compelling characters.
viewers should take note: Falling has
a short but naughty stinger, so if you go, you might as well stay for the very
end. On paper, it sounds like a wild romp, but the disparate elements never
congeal into a satisfying whole. The one hundred eleven minute running time
also feels all that and maybe more. Interesting as an opportunity to
pop-psychoanalyze contemporary Spanish cultural currents, but a radically mixed
bag as a movie-going experience, Falling
Stars is only for self-selecting audiences when it screens tomorrow (12/19)
and Sunday (12/21) as part of the AFI’s EU Film Showcase, outside of Washington,
Labels: AFI EU Showcase '14, Spanish Cinema