Film Review: Official Competition – InDaily
A wealthy Spanish businessman in need of an inheritance considers a bridge bearing his name but settles for a film starring the two greatest actors of the time, directed by a woman so pretentious that she seeks the inspiration by making word associations in the tube of a vacuum cleaner while lying on a concrete floor.
It’s a movie about making a movie that manages to be satirically nonsensical without abandoning the core truths underneath.
The rich man’s vanity project features Spanish actors Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez in all their true stardom, while the rival male marquee names Felix and Ivan, with Penélope Cruz as the mad director, Lola. Without these three, Official competition would struggle for the dynamism it achieves. Seeing serious actors playing ghastly versions of themselves is the strength of a film that laughs at the hand that feeds it.
Felix and Ivan are polar opposites: Felix is loud, sexy – like an aging movie star with a Maserati – and deliberately provocative in the vocal warm-up he does while shouting into Ivan’s noble face, a much more serious theatrical actor who does not need such pretensions. This is the key to their rivalry; one is more famous, the other better actor. From now on, they must embody two brothers at war in a family saga supported by a man who does not know who they are.
Lola, whose massive head of unruly curls marks her as a author, decides that the way to bring out the best in actors is to crush their egos, which she does in such a literal way that they are left speechless. Talk to the producers, she says, when they threaten to sue — she’s just doing her job.
He is full of that kind of vanity; the acting techniques and selfish undermining we suspect happens behind the scenes more often than anyone admits. Lola’s refusal to let Ivan go past the first line of his script until he says it with only the right intonation is devilishly clever, and credit to the luminous Cruz for pulling it off.
The jokes are all inside, raising the question of how appealing it will be outside of the festival audience.
Moviegoers will find plenty to savor in three excellent actors who wrestle with ideas of ego and insecurities as they play caricatures of themselves. For others, a nonsensical movie within a movie about a movie made for all the wrong reasons may not yield many overt laughs – but it does deliver three very attractive stars who are remarkably easy on the eyes.
The official competition is screened at various times during the Moro Spanish Film Festival, which takes place at the Palace Nova Eastend cinema until May 18.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.