J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

De la Iglesia’s My Big Night

New Year’s in October is sort of like Christmas in July, but there are fewer door-buster sales and more hooking-up. During the pre-recording of a Spanish New Year’s countdown special, just about everything goes wrong behind the scenes, but the extras hired to be party guests hardly notice. They are too busy acting crazy in Álex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

José has no clue what to expect when his employment agency sends him to the set of the television special, but the increasingly violent picket line outside is the first sign this will be no ordinary gig. His previously shunned seat will be right beneath the camera-crane that beaned his predecessor. Much to his delight, he strikes up an immediate rapport with the bombshell Paloma. In fact, his entire table seems to have paired up quite amorously. Unfortunately, they blame the allegedly jinxed Paloma for a series of accidents plaguing the set.

Regardless of Paloma’s luck or karma, she is probably the least of everyone’s worries. Instead, they should be more concerned with the aging Tom Jones figure Alphonso (just “Alphonso,” in the uni-named tradition of superstardom), whose resentful adopted son has recruited a psychotic fan to assassinate him. Meanwhile, gold-digging extras have conspired to secure a vial of bodily fluid from the ridiculous new pop idol Adanne, as part of a child support scheme. All the madness unfolds under the negligent eye of the embezzling producer, who plans to abscond as soon as they finish taping. Unfortunately, it seems like this disastrous show will never end—and why should it, when everyone else is having so much fun?

Big Night addresses many of the same issues de la Iglesia tackled in the dour and didactic As Luck Would Have It, but this time he binges on the sort of naughty humor and madcap energy the earlier film completely lacked. Granted, there is still a fair amount of predatory behavior on display, but it is always played for darkly comic effect. The frothier films of Almodór are an obvious comparison, but Big Night has a madness all its own.

Collectively, the game ensemble will pretty much do anything for a laugh. For the local Spanish audience, it starts with real life Latin balladeer Raphael (still with the one name) playing a wildly exaggerated (we should hope) version of himself. In a similar spirit, as Adanne, Mario Casas gives a performance worthy of Fabio. However, Pepón Nieto solidly anchors the lunacy as poor, confused José.

In all honesty, My Big Night might be de la Iglesia’s most accomplished feat of auteurism since The Last Circus. Frankly, it goes well past over-the-top, becoming spectacularly impressive for its manic pace and sheer bravado. Highly recommended for those who enjoy farce with an acidic edge, My Big Night opens this Friday (4/15) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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