Cine, Spanish for cinema, is one of my favorite pastimes. Movies are a great introduction to culture, language and history of another region. Director Carlos Saura’s, Carmen, was a key inspiration for my website’s title, Fake Flamenco. The passion I saw in the dancing of the classic opera’s retelling scorched my eyelashes. Latin culture, art and language takes my life from bud to bloom.
What I like is quirky, often romantic, silly, poignant and funny. Happy endings are not central to Latin film; but telling an interesting story in an unique way is. My list of the best films in Spanish I have seen so far, in chronological order:
- Carmen (Carlos Saura, Spanish) (1983) Flamenco, heat, drama, and the pervasive question of what is real and what is theater.
- El Mariachi by Robert Rodríguez, Mexican-American director (1992) Proof a film student can make a great action flick on a tiny budget. Superb acting by the extras.
- Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate, 1992) Directors: Alfonso Aráu, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Steven Bernstein, Writer: Laura Esquivel. Book of tragic romance and kitchen magic turned movie.
- Fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate, 1993) Cuban directors: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío. What does it mean to be Cuban? Opposites attract in this story set in Castro Cuba. (LGBTQ+)
- Mécaniques célestes (Celestial Clockwork, 1995) Dir: Fina Torres (Venezuela), Ricardo Aronovich. Woman leaves fiance at the altar in Latin America to find a new life as an opera singer in Spain. Her roommate conspires to separate her from her new lover and from success in her singing career. (LGBTQ+)
- La flor de mi secreto (Flower of my Secret, 1995) by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, The secret life of a romance novelist who hides behind a pen name.
- Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother, 1999) by director Pedro Almodóvar. A mother looks for solace among new friends after losing someone close to her.
- La lengua de las mariposas (Butterfly, 1999) by director José Luis Cuerda, Spanish. Coming of age in Civil War Spain.
- La fiebre del loco (Loco Fever, 2001) Directed by a Chilean, Andrés Wood. Quirky low-budget Chilean movie about fishing for a favorite catch (read: an aphrodisiac). A playful heist movie where everyone is guilty of some sin.
- L’Auberge espagnole (The Spanish Apartment, 2002) By French directors Cédric Klapisch and Dominique Colin. (multilingual) Students live in shifts in a Barcelona apartment, hijinks ensue.
- No (2012) (Pablo Larraín, Sergio Armstrong, Chilean) The story of the Chilean plebiscite that marked the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. Power of the people.
- Tesoros (Treasures, 2017) directed by María Novaro. This deceptively simple film by a top Mexican director, tells the story of children who find treasure in the ocean. Wonderful child actors.
Were the movies better in the 90s? Or did I just have more time to watch them ; ) What are your favorite foreign films in Spanish or any language? La Femme Nikita (France), Run Lola Run (Germany),Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (China, USA)?
Thanks for reading Fake Flamenco! Olé! -Rebecca
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