Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SCN: DON'T TOUCH THE DEAD, KID explores families and funerals in the 50s

Reminiscent of two other relatively recent Hispanic movies about families and funerals, DON'T TOUCH THE DEAD, KID (Los muertos no se tocan, nene), from the 70-year-old Spanish director José Luis García Sánchez (shown below), may remind you of both My Mexican Shiva and Nora's Will -- except that the time frame is 1950s Spain rather than present-day Mexico, the religion is Catholic rather than Jewish, and the cinematography is nicely old-fashioned black-and-white.

References to James Dean and other 50s icons pop up periodically, as the film tracks the day that the great-grandpa of a barely-bourgeois family kicks the bucket, and a reunion of sorts occurs for the outcast, black-sheep daughter with her dad and sister. This daughter brings along her déclassé hubby (below, right) and their street-smart son, and the two sets of families, featuring four generations, mix it up. Also involved are a maid or two, and several workmen who appear during the day, most especially one that is installing the family's very first television set.

Though the movie is rife with anger, suspicion, neglect and confu-sion, there's a gentleness to Señor García Sánchez's treatment that helps the material come into its comic resonance. At times it seems almost sweetly nostalgic; at other moments it's ready to lacerate the hypocrisy of Spain's Catholic Church under Franco.

Along the way we learn about everything from bullfighting to how to place dentures into a dead man (below). If, by the end of its 90 minutes, the movie seems like it ought to have been slightly funnier, nastier, sadder and richer, well, maybe so. It's certainly not bad, as is, and the talented and game cast, including Carlos Iglesias (above, left), from this year's Ispansi!) does a bang-up job -- especially Mariola Fuentes (above, right) as the family's very savvy maid.

The film played twice at this year's Spanish Cinema Now, but so far as I know, it has not yet been picked up for U.S. distribution.

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