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Cria cuervos

Cria cuervos

Playing tomorrow, Monday, April 23, at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater is certainly one of the best Spanish films of its era, Cria cuervos (1976). And, considering last year’s revelatory new Janus print of Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive down at Film Forum, Cria, which also stars young Ana Torrent, in her follow-up performance to Beehive, deserved a similar extended chance for rediscovery. Instead, it played once last fall as part of Janus’s 50th anniversary series, and now again for a Carlos Saura retrospective, at a hard-to-attend weekday screening. If you can possibly make it up there, by all means, go.

I recently viewed Saura’s film for the first time and fell in love, totally enveloped by its rhythms and its elegantly unsettling structure. More straightforward in its psychologies than Erice’s film, yet similarly oblique in the way it deals with childhood trauma and national political repression, and localizes it in the domestic sphere, Cria gives the little dark-eyed beauty Torrent another opportunity to hone her soulful blank-slate stare. Here, instead of haunted by the specter of Franco-stein, Ana’s learning to cope after her beloved mother’s loss to cancer, and subsequently her father’s sudden death. Living with her older and younger sister, her chilly aunt, and earthy housekeeper, Ana is ensconced in a world of women, and Saura’s vision is strikingly maternal, presided over by the ghost of Geraldine Chaplin’s mother–in one memorable scene she passes by Ana’s bedroom door over and over again in solemn repetition, her nightgown draped around her like a shroud.

The (necessary) absence of the father is meant to be representative of the end of General Franco’s rule, as the dictator was on his death bed when the film was in production, and gone by the time the film was released. Thus, the film’s vision is one of a nation of women just coming out of the shadows after years of invisibility–the ghosts of the living emerging into the light. Added bonus: catchy pop tune “Porque te vas,” by Jeannette, which becomes the film’s presiding theme. You won’t be able to get it, or Ana’s haunted stare, out of your head for days…

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