Six out-of-work macho men suffer the indignities of life among the unemployed, in the warm and funny Spanish slice-of-life film "Mondays in the Sun" ("Los Lunes al Sol").
By LESLIE (HOBAN) BLAKE
(Originally reviewed in March 2003 at the New Directors / New Films festival, Lincoln Center.)
Few foreign films arrive stateside bearing a pedigree quite as grand as Fernando Leon de Aranoa's third film, "Los Lunes al Sol." Winner of five Goyas (Best Film, director and three acting awards), this serio-comic look into the lives of six out-of-work hombres beat out Pedro Almodovar's "Talk to Me" as Spain's Oscar bid for Best Foreign Language Film. But don't let that scare you away it's a warm and funny "slice of life" film.
Aranoa's film offers up a Spanish variation on the blue-collar films of Ken Loach ("My Name is Joe") and Robert Guediguian ("Marius and Jeannette"). And like them, Aranoa owes a huge debt to Marcel Pagnol, the Godfather of all blue-collar scenarists. It can't be mere coincidence that both Aranoa and Guediguian set their films in the same kind of coastal towns as Pagnol's Marseilles trilogy: "Marius," "Fanny" and "Cesar." These writer/directors all share an abundant love and respect for the common man (and woman), along with a keen sense of the human comedy.
|MONDAYS IN THE SUN|
|Original title: Los Lunes al Sol.|
Directed by: Fernando León de Aranoa.
Written by: Fernando León de Aranoa, Ignacio del Moral.
Cast: Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, José Ángel Egido, Nieve de Medina, Enrique Villén, Celso Bugallo, Joaquín Climent, Aida Folch, Serge Riaboukine, Laura Domínguez, Andrés Lima.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
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New Directors / New Films 2003|
"Los Lunes . . ." is a character-driven ensemble film, even though three of its actors each won a Goya (Javier Bardem/Best Actor, Luis Tosar/Best Supporting and Jose Angel Egido/Best Breakthrough Performance). The defining events a worker's strike and subsequent layoffs are set in motion under the credits, and we meet the sextet of former shipyard workers (and friends) some time after their severance pay has already run out.
Rico (Joaquin Liment) has invested his severance in the bar where the rest spend their days and most evenings. His entrepreneurship increasingly becomes a sore point with the others, except for Reina (Enrique Villen), who has found a job as a night watchman for the local soccer field. He allows the group to sneak in and almost see the games, leading to a funny bit where they can hear the roar of the crowd but have no idea which side kicked the goal. But his job turns Reina into a martinet, separating him even further from the four guys who're still unemployed.
Santa (Bardem), spouts leftist "up the worker" tautologies while bedding whomever he can, as he dreams of emigrating to Australia. Bardem hides his good looks and lithe physique (see Almodovar's "Live Flesh") behind a woolly beard and beer gut, to play the lusty and impetuous philosopher of the group think early Brando and middle-aged Anthony Quinn, all rolled into one. His unemployed state depresses Jose (Tosar) into near silence at home, which impacts negatively on his relationship with his wife Ana (Nieve De Medina), who works at the local cannery. Neither Santa nor Jose actively seek employment, out of some macho sense of a man's entitlement to work without having to look for a job. It's this same macho pride that eats at Jose every time Ana leaves for work.
Paunchy Lino (Egido), the sweaty dad of a teen-aged son (who's teaching him computer basics), still looks for work, resorting to hair dye and wearing his son's clothes to appear younger than his advancing middle age. Amador (Celso Bugallo), the eldest, is a taciturn alcoholic who embodies the dead-end possibility of the future for the others.
Each man has his own story, filled with moments of high drama, low humor and some sense of resolution, and each is inextricably linked with the others. But to attempt to tell more would spoil the beauty of the seemingly random, yet inevitable events that unfold through the director's need to tell what he calls, "local, everyday, prodigious stories." "Los Lunes al Sol" is a film that needs to reveal itself with all its messy, lifelike ambiguities intact.
|MARCH 27, 2003|
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