Thursday, December 10, 2009

SCN: In Juan Martínez Moreno's A GOOD MAN, the irony lands with a thud

What's the bet that any movie bearing the title
A GOOD MAN is going to be about a guy who's not so hot? The irony is just too irresistible, right? It evidently was for writer/
director Juan Martínez Moreno (shown below), whose film of that name has screened twice already at the FSLC's Span-
ish Cinema Now.

This tale of three law professors stars former heartthrob Tristan Ulloa as the most pivotal of the three, now looking quite buttoned-
down, ready for mid-life and bear-
ing a surprising resemblance to our own Tim Robbins. Ulloa is assisted by Emilio Gutiérrez Caba (two photos below) as his friend, father figure & mentor; Alberto Jiménez as his smart and nasty adversary; & Nathalie Poza (below, left) as his long-suffering wife. Good cast! Each does a creditable job with the material given -- which, to label as second-rate, would be kind.

Moreno's movie begin with a speech given by the Ulloa character which is, shall we say, obvious enough. This is immediately underlined by the response from the Jiménez character, and underlined again by a further response from Señor Caba. Ah-hah: the theme and set-up become clear! While we are happy to note that the filmmaker's highlighting pen is in working order, we begin to pray that it runs out of ink sometime soon. No such luck. Event leads to event, the next more obvious -- and more coincidental -- than the last, until laughter becomes the best response, as happened on several occasions at last night's screening).

If a theme can be found that joins the disparate array of films collected for this year's SCN, it might just be this: How long does it take a country, post-
fascist-dictatorship, to arrive at a new kind of dictatorship: that of a consumer-crazed Capitalism in which getting ahead is all and rocking the boat in any form is simply not to be tolerated. We've seen this reflected in different ways by this years' Cell 211, Gordos, Hierro, Mediterran-
ean Food (more about this fun film soon), Woman Without Piano and even Stigmata (more about this one soon, too). In any case, I think A Good Man bears out this theory, even if, as a movie, it is no great shakes.

Predictability is the film's greatest sin; a good thriller needs as little of this as possible, but Moreno just piles it up. On the plus side, in addition to the decent acting, is the fine cinematography by Gonzalo F. Berridi (responsible also for this year's excellent The Good News), who makes everything look stylish and appealing, including the seemingly ever-present rain-in-Spain (above). Oh, yes, and the other thing the movie teaches us is how wonderfully versatile can be that most prosaic of garden tools, the trowel
(see Ulloa's hand, below).

There's one more chance to view this new Spanish film: Saturday afternoon, December 12, at 3:15, at the Walter Reade Theater.

No comments: