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El Orfanato Squares The Circle (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007) October 13, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in European Films, Spanish Filmfest.
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English Title: The Orphanage
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast: Belen Rueda, Geraldine Chaplin, Fernando Cayo

The contestant who outsings everyone in the competition, hits the high notes, whistles drowning falsettos, does convoluted curls, showstopping numbers, eardropping finales – – the make or break revelation, the display of unbearable pretense – – who would not miss her? Of course not to downplay those who fit the mold, but do they sound as good as their turbulent presence? Does the idea of entertainment stop on the present and stay there for long? Or future references hold reservations? The big-voiced talent in this fest is actually a successor of a big-voiced talent too; the torch has been passed, only it’s not well-lit. Or it ran out of gas. The gimmick is comprised of shots that range from stylized to overdone images that communicate in random motion of incoherence. They have the language but they don’t know how to use it. The mutes are far better. The story is good enough to convince Del Toro that it may be a baptism of fire for Bayona but the latter’s supreme eagerness and technical focus dismiss the potential of Sanchez’s script. Slamming doors, screaming expletives, burgeoning darkness, resurrected pasts, mystical disappearance, fresh footprints, mazes, puzzles, riddles, board games, cunning reflections, exorcism – – god, that entire Geraldine Chaplin sequence can stand as a short and fare better than the whole thing – – I believe I step in the wrong train. The horror trip ends by the time I board in. A Murakami déjà vu? Ten inches away, you notice the elements dedicated to anticipate the thrill, the art direction, Laura’s eyebags and split-ends, the music that limps. Ten meters away, you notice the unevenness, the dead spaces, the comatose exchange of lines, the lack of spunk. In case you ask which part I appreciate the most, I tell you, without baking an eyelash: the opening credits. Wallpapers had never been filmed this good. The walls I painted in hommage to Bertolucci and Storaro were washed away in just a spit. Bayona loses grip from there, splattering unnecessary brains and copouts, even borrowing shots from Blair Witch Project, and decides to engage us in mere smokes and mirrors. The splinters are infinitesimal, no blood, no wounds.

*Película Pelikula: 7th Spanish Film Festival, October 1 – 12, Greenbelt 3 Cinema 1

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