Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Cria Cuervos...

Written and directed by Carlos Saura, Cria Cuervos… (Raise Ravens…) is the story of a young girl who is dealing with the death of her mother as she also deals with changes in her family both socially and personally. The film doesn’t just play into a young girl coming-of-age following her mother’s death but also linger for her mother to come back as she deals with the social changes around her. Starring Ana Torrent, Monica Randall, Hector Alterio, Florinda Chico, and Geraldine Chaplin. Cria Cuervos… is a dazzling yet touching film from Carlos Saura.

The film plays into the life of a young girl and her two sisters following the deaths of their parents as they’re being raised by their aunt and mute grandmother while the young girl sees the ghost of her mother. It’s a film that is largely told from the perspective of the girl Ana (Ana Torrent) as it is set during the summer in their home in Madrid where she and her sisters rarely leave the house as they’re being watched by their Aunt Paulina (Monica Randall) as the girls are also tasked to take care of their mute grandmother (Josefina Diaz). Yet, it is a film that has a unique narrative since it is told by Ana as an adult (Geraldine Chaplin) who reflects on that period in time as she also deals with how much the death of her mother (Geraldine Chaplin) meant to her.

Carlos Saura’s screenplay opens with the death of Ana’s father Anselmo (Hector Alterio) as she then sees her mother as it is believed that she’s alive but once her narration, in her older self, appears. It is clear that it is told with a sense of reality and surrealism to play into Ana struggling with the absence of her mother as she becomes uncomfortable with the presence of her Aunt Paulina whom she feels is too strict. It adds to the sense of tension between the two as well as Aunt Paulina struggling to win Ana over though there are things that Paulina doesn’t know about her sister. There are also some ambiguity as it relates to the death of Ana’s father as Ana believed that she killed him as she expresses some guilt over what happened. All of which adds to the sense of melancholia that surrounds the older Ana who reflects on these memories as well as the brief moments of happiness that relates to the world outside of Madrid.

Saura’s direction is quite intoxicating in terms of the intimacy that he creates as it is shot largely in this house in the middle of Madrid with an empty swimming pool in the backyard. While there are some wide shots of the city of Madrid shot from rooftops to show a country in a state of transition during the final days of Francisco Franco’s rule as there are some allegories for what Saura is saying on a visual scale. The city of Madrid and the Spanish countryside represent a world that is emerging as well as old values that are re-emerging where Saura uses a lot of wide and medium shots to showcase this sense of freedom. For the scenes set in the house where Ana, her sisters, their grandmother, and Aunt Paulina live in is one that is very mystical and intimate as there are some unique close-ups and compositions that play into a sense of repression though Aunt Paulina is anything but a Fascist.

Saura’s approach to surrealism and fantasy is more about the sense of loss that Ana is dealing with as it is clear how close she was with her mother as there is a chilling flashback where the young Ana visits her ailing mother on her deathbed convulsing with pain. It’s among these moments that are eerie as it plays into Ana’s understanding about death and how she feels threatened by Aunt Paulina’s position in replacing her as a maternal figure. It also adds into the sense of growing pains as Ana wishes that Paulina would die or she would die herself so she can reunite with her mother. All of which has the older Ana reflect on not just the turmoil of her childhood but also reflect on death and how much it impacted her as an adult. Overall, Saura creates a very evocative yet touching film about a young girl coping with loss.

Cinematographer Teodoro Escamilla does brilliant work with the film‘s naturalistic yet colorful cinematography as it plays into the intimacy of the home with its approach to lighting for scenes in the day and night as well as shots set in the Spanish countryside. Editor Pablo G. del Amo does fantastic work with the editing as it is very straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and sense of surrealism. Set decorator Rafael Palermo does amazing work with the look of the house and the look of the rooms to play into the personality of the characters living at home.

Costume designer Maiki Marin does terrific work with the clothes as it plays into the period of the times during the final days Franco-era Spain to play into the youthful personalities of the girls as well as the more reserved look of Aunt Paulina and the same dress that Ana‘s mother would often appear as a ghost. The sound work of Bernardo Mens and Antonio Illan is superb as it maintains that sense of naturalism in its approach to music as well as things that happen in and out of the house to play into the world the girls want to venture to. The film’s music by Federico Mompou is wonderful as it’s mostly low-key in its approach to classical-based music while the rest of the soundtrack features a classical piano piece, a flamenco song that Ana’s grandmother listens to, and a pop song that definitely says a lot about what Ana is going through yet something that she doesn’t understand since she is too young to understand the concept of death.

The film’s excellent cast includes some notable small roles from Mitra Miller as Anselmo’s mistress Amelia, German Cobos as Amelia’s husband Nicholas, Josefina Diaz as Ana’s grandmother, Hector Alterio as Ana’s father Anselmo who is sort of a philanderer that has a weakness for women, and Florinda Chico as the housemaid Rosa who knows a lot about Ana’s mother as she is the closest person Ana considers as a maternal figure. Conchi Perez and Maite Sanchez are brilliant in their respective roles as the sisters Irene and Maite as the two respectively serve as Ana’s oldest and youngest sisters who cope with their new changes in their life.

Monica Randall is amazing as Aunt Paulina as a strict woman who is trying to maintain some order as well as get to know her nieces as she finds herself being tested by Ana. Geraldine Chaplin is brilliant in a dual role as Ana’s mother as a woman who deals with her illness and troubled marriage and as the older Ana who reflects on the summer where she lost her father and coped with how sad her childhood was. Finally, there’s Ana Torrent in a spectacular performance as Ana as this young girl dealing with the death of her mother as well as the changes in her family life as it’s this very naturalistic yet exhilarating performance of a young girl dealing with loss.

Cria Cuervos… is a phenomenal film from Carlos Saura that features great performances from Ana Torrent and Geraldine Chaplin. The film isn’t just a unique study on death from the perspective of a child but also in how a child tries to maintain the memories and spirit of her mother. Even as it’s set during one of Spain’s most intense period where it plays to a sense of change emerging as the film is also a look into that change and how it reflects into the life of this young girl. In the end, Cria Cuervos… is a sensational film from Carlos Saura.

Carlos Saura Films: (Cuenca) - (The Delinquents (1960 film)) - (Weeping for a Bandit) - (La caza) - Peppermint Frappe - (Stress is Three) - (Honeycomb) - (The Garden of Delights) - (Ana and the Wolves) - (Cousin Angelica) - (Elisa, vida mia) - (Blindfolded Eyes) - (Mama Turns 100) - (Faster, Faster) - (Blood Wedding) - (Sweet Hours) - (Antonieta) - (Carmen (1983 film)) - (Los Zancos) - (El amor brujo) - (El Dorado (1988 film)) - (The Dark Night) - (Ay Carmela!) - (The South) - (Marathon) - (Sevillanas) - (Outrage) - (Flamenco) - (Taxi (1996 film)) - (Little Bird) - (Tango) - (Goya in Bordeaux) - (Bunuel and King Solomon’s Table) - (Salome) - (The 7th Day) - (Iberia) - (Fados) - (I, Don Giovanni) - (Flamenco, Flamenco)

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