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Monday, May 10, 2010


Juan Antonio Bardem, one of the early lights of modern Spanish cinema (and uncle to actor Javier), won a Cannes Jury prize with this film. On its surface, this is a melodrama about an adulterous couple who run over a cyclist as they drive back from a tryst. The unsolved death shows up in the next day’s papers, but the chances of these two getting caught looks slim. The dead cyclist was a poor cog, a common laborer from the tenements like so many others. The adulterers come from wealthy families, are well connected and intimate with the corrupt society that writes the rules & protects its own. Only their own sense of guilt could upset things, if they had any guilt. Or a threat of blackmail from a society gadfly. What could he have seen? Could the dead man’s widow know anything? Why are the police asking questions? Just how much trouble are they in? Bardem mixes this burgoo of Italian NeoRealism and traditional tropes out of classic adulterous Hollywood fare like NOTORIOUS and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (both 1946) to reasonable effect, but the film falls uncomfortably between stylistic stools and Bardem gets off on the wrong foot by not letting us know who was at fault for the accident. Over @ Universal in Hollywood, the great Douglas Sirk was doing just this sort of thing (and with a swing to it) . . . he never got a Cannes Jury Prize.

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