Sunday, December 12, 2010

At SCN: ANYTHING YOU WANT--Achero Mañas' life lessons on male and female

Achero Mañas' striking new movie ANYTHING YOU WANT (Todo lo que tú quieras) begins with a series of photographs. The first shows a man, and the second that same man in make-up and drag attire. Then we see the photo of another man -- as a male and then as a female. And on and on through several interesting before-and-after shots, as the opening credits thread throughout. Once the story sets off, we're involved with a relatively happy family: dad (a too-busy lawyer played by Juan Diego Botto), mom (Ana Risueño) and their little daughter Dafne (the lovely and endearing Lucía Fernández). Of course, we're thinking, "So when does the drag stuff kick in?"

It does, soon enough, and for a reason that is unique yet absolutely believable -- at least in my cinema and life experience. Writer/director, Señor Mañas (shown at left) who gave us the wonderful film El Bola a decade ago) here guides us into viewing drag -- and the differences between the male and female appearance -- in a manner that I suspect few of us (even those who are gay or bisexual) will have considered. This is daring stuff because it forces us all, just as it does the hero of the film (Botto, shown below, left, with Fernández), into areas that we don't usually, and would not probably choose to, inhabit.

The filmmaker separates drag from sexuality and gender preference -- something that is not often done. His movie offers up a gay man, all right, in the person of Álex, an elderly drag performer -- played by José Luis Gómez (below) with a piercing combination of on-stage "ballsiness" -- his drag show is terrific -- and off-stage reticence that is equally powerful.

What comes  through most strongly in the movie, rightly so, is the parent-child bond, demonstrated first by the luminous Ms Risueño, pictured below, by Botto (whose character brings to life the title phrase with passion, if not, perhaps, quite enough deliberation) and even by Gómez. It's good to have Botto, absent from at SCN over the past few years, back again.  (If you've never seen him as the bisexual lover opposite Emma Suárez in the marvelous rom/com/drama I Will Survive, rent it for one of the most engaging and moving explorations of modern relationships and single parenting on film.)

In the fine supporting cast are performers such as Pedro Alonso, as Botto's best friend and business partner, and Najwa Nimri (below), as an old flame who comes into the family's life.

I'm deliberately, and as usual, leaving out plot points of this most interesting movie, which deserves to be experienced with its events and surprises intact. I think you'll agree that the finale -- which proves that sound can be every bit as effective as visuals -- demonstrates that dad has given his daughter not just anything she wants but something that she truly needed.

Anything You Want -- which I don't believe has been picked up for US distribution as yet (it would be a straight-to-DVD natural for Wolfe, Strand, TLA or any company that does decent business with its gay titles -- though this one comes at the theme in a sideways but important manner) -- plays one more time at the Walter Reade Theater: Saturday, December 18, at 6:45.  For the entire Spanish Cinema Now schedule, click here.

No comments: