Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Intacto (2001)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

Spanish cinema industry is the most vital of all European cinema industries. One measure of such vitality is its current status of Hollywood's remake-fodder. Many Spanish films has recently caught the attention of critics and earned a lot of praise, especially those belonging to the thriller genre. One of them is INTACTO, 2001 directorial debut of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, which also happens to be one of very few directorial debuts slated to be remade in Hollywood.

The films begins in a desert casino run by Samuel Berg (played by Max von Sydow), Holocaust survivor with an unusual luck and even less usual ability to steal other people's luck. One of Samuel's chief employees is Federico (played by Eusebio Poncela), earthquake survivor with the same gift, used to help casino when customers start winning too much. When Federico tries to start his own business, Samuel takes away his luck. Seven years later Federico tries to get back at Samuel by finding people with extraordinary luck and make them play against his former mentor. One of the candidates is Tomas Sanz (played by Leonardo Sbaraglia), bank robber who miraculously survived disastrous plane crash. Federico helps him escape from hospital and introduces him to the underworld of people testing their extraordinary luck through bizarre games of chances. In the same time, Tomas is being pursued by Sara (played by Monica Lopez), police inspector who miraculously survived a car crash that claimed lives of her husband and daughter.

INTACTO has very interesting idea that captivates the audience's attention from the very beginning. Even more important is Fresnadillo's decision not to tell whether the "gift" of his protagonist is indeed some sort of supernatural force or simply combination of statistics of self-fulfilling prophecies. This answer is left to the viewers, who also can enjoy the stylish atmosphere of a world which is surreal and banally realistic at the same time. Cinematography by Xavi Gimenez and Lucio Godoy's music help a lot in creating such effect. Fresnadillo also shows great talent in setting up some memorable scenes, showing great deal of admiration towards the works of David Lynch.

However, the most memorable element of INTACTO is Max von Sydow, veteran Swedish actor whose iconic presence could lift even the less accomplished film. His scenes, at the beginning and at the end of the film, are the best. The rest of cast is also good, especially Eusebio Poncela whose character is as pathetic as von Sydow's was formidable. Unforunately, by the end of the film it becomes apparent that Fresnadillo couldn't decide what exactly to do with such great premise. The plot resolution appears to be forced and unconvincing. But, the general impression left by INTACTO is still good. It is one of those European genre films that look much superior to Hollywood even when they are obviously below the standards of genre excellence.

RATING: 6/10 (++)


Blogger Unknown said...

While the ending is perhaps reminiscent of Hamlet, I don't think that it lets the film down. The theme of "Lucky at cards, unlucky in love", is original and compelling. It's taken to the extreme with the idea that perhaps you could save someone's life by telling them you no longer love them. A great debut from Fresnadillo.


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