(24/01/07) – The latest DVD releases include a transexual dilemma, heterosexual posturing and spellbinding imagery.

20 Centimetres

(Dir: Ramón Salazar. With Mónica Cervera, Pablo Puyol, Rossy de Palma. Spain, 2005. Released by TLA Releasing)

The influence of Pedro Almodovar on Spain’s filmic imagination continues to yield fruit, to varying results. 20 Centimetres (pictured), a pop-inflected, colourful musical about Marieta, a narcoleptic transexual who dreams about getting the chop and become a fully-fledged woman. Her fits are the entry point to the musical scenes, which include queer classics such as ‘True Blue´, ‘I Only Want to Be With You´ and, even more fittingly, ´I Want to Break Free´. It’s also during one of these fits she meets the hunk Tomás(Pablo Puyol) in the market where he is a stockboy. It turns out that Tomás loves the centimetres of the title and Marieta is torn between keeping her life-changing plan or keeping her new boyfriend. The idea is a very exciting one to begin with, but Salazar doesn´t have Almodovar´s savviness and boldness. There are too many contrived odd asides and the story fizzles out before the end (at 112 minutes the film feels too long, no pun intended). Marieta’s affair with Tomás is explored too superficially, when it is actually the pivot of the story’s conflict. There are good moments of camp fun, but the overall effect is one of imitation rather than originality.

Swindled

(Dir: Miguel Bardem. With Ernesto Alterio. Victoria Abril, Federico Luppi. Manuel Alexandre. Spain, 2005. Released by TLA Releasing)

Following in the footsteps of Guy Ritchie, Miguel Bardem’s Swindled bets on that kind of contrived coolness that only uncool people buy into. In all fairness, this is better stuff than Ritchie’s dismal cinematic output, but Bardem’s representation of gender roles is so old fashioned that you wonder if he was trying to be retro a la Get Carter about that as well. The story is focused on one single idea: everyone dupes everyone. The protagonist of this story with more twists than you can shake a stick at is Ernesto (Ernesto Alterio), a small time con-man who graduates to the higher planks of the conning world when he befriends veteran con-man El Manco (Federico Luppi). Then former con-woman and current wife of dying millionaire (yes, that’s how clichéd it is) Pilar, played by Almodovar regular Victoria Abril, steps into the fray with a real-estate con plan. But can they trust each other? Can we follow the story? It doesn’t really matter, it’s all an excuse for gags, wisecracks and split screens and despite the occasional gleam of intelligence and style, overall this is anachronistic macho stuff.

Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003

The idiosyncratic short film work of the London-based duo of brothers is now available in a glossy box-set released by the BFI in November. The two-disc package includes 13 of the brothers’ shorts spanning 24 years, in brand new restored and remastered editions. Heavily influenced by Eastern European imagery and eccentricity, the twins have played a major role in establishing the puppet film as a serious adult art form, using it as a medium for a melange of literary, musical, cinematic and philosophical influences. Think Peter Greenaway meets Shockheaded Peter with a touch of Lewis Carrol and Tim Burton and you’ll get an approximate idea of the aesthetics forged by the brothers.

The films reviewed above are out now. Please follow the links provided to buy a copy and support Kamera by doing so.