Among the many wonderful things about GORDOS, which might best be English-translated as Fatties), which premiered last night at the FSLC's Spanish Cinema Now, is that young Arévalo (well, he's 39), shown at right, is not content to give us inspirational platitudes about being the best we can be, or just being who we are, or even being who we want to be. His characters might be into this sort of thing, but by the end of his dark, warm, funny, sad and enormously appealing movie, he's covered all these variations and then gone back again. "We're constantly changing," he told us at his thoughtful Q&A following the screening, "so what's right today might not be tomorrow." Indeed. And how some of his people in this new film deal with one of life's bigger changes -- pregnancy, anyone? -- is by turns surprising, mystifying, amusing and profound.
I hope you can too.
Gordos screens again at the Walter Reade this Friday, December 11, at 1:30 and 6:30 pm.
How did the filmmaker find his actors? Some he works with consistently, but Arévalo gave credit to de la Torre for beginning it all with his willingness to gain, then lose, that weight. Once he came aboard, the film was easier to cast. Two of his stars, the director explained, were first timers -- Leticia and Marta Martín -- and he had to work with them for four months before committing to them for these roles. "They had to be able to work at the level of the other actors, and we had to know that they could. Working with Raúl Arévalo helped Leticia so much because he is one of the best actors in Spain and is so generous. There was a lot of psychology involved in all this, too, because we had to make certain the two young actresses would stick out the entire shoot."
About the film's themes and ideas, the writer/director told us that he is rather obsessed with cycles: "Life itself is a cycle and you always end up at the same point you've begun, yet you have changed inside. You've learned. We hope that all these people, finally, will be less unhappy."
Regarding the differences between directing and screenwriting, Arévalo explained that he had to leave the screenwriter at home for this film. "I rehearsed so much with the actors, who were all so good and gave so much that we ended up using much of what they brought in the dialog. The result was much better than my original work," he said. "Some sequences were complete improvisations. It's good to be modest, and believe that your thing can be improved."