Lola Duenas

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Alleluia Review


Excellent

Much more than an unsettling horror movie (although it is that too), this film gets under the skin to play with the audience's emotional response, eliciting dark sympathies with the killers. It's an uncanny trick that Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz (Calvaire) does extremely well. He's also adept at putting a fresh spin on a true story that's been filmed three times before (as The Honeymoon Killers in 1969, Deep Crimson in 1996 and Lonely Hearts in 2006) and has inspired countless other murderous-lovers-on-the-run movies.

This time it has an internet twist, as Gloria (Lola Duenas) finds Michel (Laurent Lucas) on a dating website. She prepares for the date by leaving her daughter with a friend (Stephane Bissot); he prepares by burning her photo and chanting, "May Gloria succumb to my charms!" Not that he needs to bother, because she falls for him, invites him home and even gives him some cash for the road. But when he fails to answer her calls, she tracks him down and rumbles him as he seduces another woman for money. Instead of denouncing him, she proposes a partnership, and they pose as brother and sister as he woos Marguerite (Edith Le Merdy). But Gloria has a jealousy problem that turns violently fatal, so they move on to another widow (Anne-Marie Loop), and then another (Helena Noguerra), by which time Michel realises he'll need to sedate Gloria.

Yes, there's a dryly comical slant to the story even as it gets increasingly violent and unnerving. But it only works this well because the filmmaking is fiendishly clever and the actors give bravely realistic performances. Duenas is astonishing as Gloria: funny, passionate and utterly terrifying. And Lucas is just as unflinching in his portrayal of Michel's weakness for women. Both of these characters have very dark souls, but they're great at hiding this from their unsuspecting victims until the last possible moment. The entire cast offers open-handed performances that are utterly transparent, and everything is more alarming as a result.

Continue reading: Alleluia Review

I'm So Excited! [Los Amantes Pasajeros] Review


Good

Fans of more recent Almodovar films like The Skin I Live In or Volver should be warned about this one, because it harks back to his much cheesier 1980s films with its broad comedy, lurid production values and camp characters. But even if it looks fluffy and silly, there are some serious things going on under the surface, as Almodovar undermines stereotypes and plays with sexuality issues. Although this means that most of the humour is aimed at a gay audience.

It all takes place on a flight from Spain to Mexico, but shortly after take-off the pilot (de la Torre) announces that a mechanical fault means they need to make an emergency landing. Then the passenger Bruna (Duenas) reveals that she's a virginal psychic who sees death ahead, and everyone starts to panic. The flight crew (Camara, Areces and Arevalo) try to distract the passengers from impending doom by performing a choreographed number to the Pointer Sisters' eponymous hit. And when that doesn't work, they lace everyone's drinks with mescaline.

Each person in the first class cabin (economy is sound asleep) has his or her own crisis, including a notorious dominatrix (Roth), a businessman (Torrijo) on a quest, a shady hitman (Yazpik), a just-married groom (Silvestre) who prefers his wife to be asleep, and a man (Toledo) running from his suicidal girlfriend (Vega). And the pilots and flight attendants are also romantically entangled. All of this swirls together like a nutty 1970s Mexican soap, complete with flimsy-looking sets and a sparky mariachi score.

Continue reading: I'm So Excited! [Los Amantes Pasajeros] Review

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