Monday, December 17, 2012

SCN: With THE BODY, his slick & efficient mystery, Oriol Paulo raises a few shivers

Spanish writer/
director Oriol Paulo was co-writer of the juicy 2010 Spanish Cinema Now treat Julia's Eyes, directed by a real filmmaker, Guillem Morales. Señor Paulo, whose second film as a director is THE BODY (El Cuerpo), possesses, at this point in his career at least, no such skills. His movie is slick and efficient as an all-too typical wtf-is-happening mystery/thriller, but it is so incredibly manipulative in order to keep its slickness and efficiency going that it began to bore TrustMovies before the midway point. By the time this relatively new filmmaker, shown below, reaches the explain-it-all finale (in which you will not have heard so much expositions spring from the mouth of one character in a single, long, uninterrupted rattle since last year's Thin Ice), you may be yawning big-time.

As I have pointed out before, we moviegoers love to be manipulated, but the problem with the kind of manipulation that moves like clockwork and in which all events and characters must conform to this clockwork is that it bears almost no relationship to life as we know it -- where a slight surprise or a bit of the unexpec-ted occasionally intrude. Consequen-tly, all the manipu-lation here quickly begins to seem like the work of some puppet-master, out of sight but all too present and controlling.

The story involves a body that has disappeared from the local morgue. It belonged to an uber-successful career-woman (played in flashback by that gorgeous staple of Spanish cinema, Belén Rueda, shown above) who, as we very soon learn, was bumped off by her husband at the behest of his younger and very attractive girlfriend. (We learn this almost immediately so this info is no spoiler.)

Ms Rueda is, as usual, so good that she manages to take her characterization into the realm of everything from feminism to aging, while creating a rich portrait of entitlement and sleaze. The rest of the primary players -- José Coronado (as the chief investi-gator, shown at bottom of post), Hugo Silva (as the husband, above) and Aura Garrido (as the girlfriend, below) -- are everything you'd want, although what you really want is that they might have a better story into which they could sink their ample acting chops.

The Body is fun enough -- if all you care about is trying to figure out a mystery, the plot of which has been manipulated to a fare-thee-well. At times the movie may suggest a kind of Diabolique for the 21st Century, in which neither story nor characters prove interesting and deep enough to matter. The film is finally a kind of exercise, allowing the filmmaker to stretch and bend genre conventions to see what he can come up with. That's great, but next time give us something really involving.

The film, and in fact, the entire Spanish Cinema Now series has concluded for this year. I'll keep posting on the films I've seen (all but four of the programs in the series) until I have covered the final five. 

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