2004Director: Joaquin Oristrell
Cast: Leonor Watling, Luis Tosar, Alex Brendemuhl
on’t let this movie slip away. This is one of those films that will just disappear. Even as I’m thinking about it, I suspect Warner Brothers of trying to extract it from my mind, replacing it with “laugh-out-loud” fake memories of Over the Hedge. Tellingly, Inconscientes opened in just one cinema in London. A pity, as it’s a quirky little Spanish sex comedy, brilliantly scripted, beautifully put together. This medium budget film is bursting at the seams, with enough confidence to know that it doesn’t need to add up to anything more than just a great way of spending two hours.
Like a tormented zombie, I wandered into the film as it was ending. Not quite up to speed, I thought I’d just missed the first five minutes and walked in on a really barnstorming opening. The dread and fear crept in when the credits rolled. As my idiocy was confirmed by the lights fading up, I felt somehow out of joint, temporally molested, like Jean Claude van Damme in Timecop. After convincing myself to stay seated, to see it through, ride it out, the film, like the seasons, came round again. I’m glad I resisted further retarded urges and persevered with the situation. Inconscientes is the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time. As much as I enjoy the gurning of Will Ferrell, it’s such a relief to know that another kind of comedy can still shine through. Plus, I’m so sick of Owen Wilson’s vacant, crooked mug that to see anything else on screen kind of turned me on.
The film is based around Freud’s tour of Spain, culminating in his presentation of “Totems and Taboos.” Entwined around his visit is the story of Alma and her missing husband, Leon—a disciple of Freud who has been driven to excess by the psychoanalyst’s method of embracing the perverse. Alma enlists the help of Salvador, her brother-in-law, on a playful jaunt of oedipal traps, giant phalluses, incest, rape, pornography, cross-dressing, pregnancy and, last of all, love. The big running joke is that the reserved, solemn Salvador has a huge dick. As crass as this sounds, it’s a winner all the way. In a hypnotized state, Salvador matter-of-factly explains to his father-in-law “it’s not that my member is so huge, but that your daughter is tight.” Moments like these set the film on fire.
Reminiscent of Alan Parker’s enjoyably warped The Road to Wellville, it’s full of distasteful jokes and visual gags. But Inconscientes is never crude. The jokes are well crafted and always serve the thrust of the narrative and the unravelling emotions of the characters. At first, I thought that the rich photography and overtly quirky charm was trying to trace over the too-cutesy figure of Amelie or A Very Long Engagement. Luckily, Oristrell has less pretension than Jeunet. It helps a great deal that the Spanish film uses the sexual obsessions of Freud as comic inspiration, hoping to say less about soppy human endeavour and more about intellectual and romantic folly.
Films like Inconscientes never make a splash. Its plight is made more arduous by the excellent Volver, which is dominating the region of our brain set aside for Spanish film (situated just to the right of the area reserved for Hungarian cabaret). So infrequent is it that a movie—in performance, style, tone, and score—is this refreshing, that I almost completely forgot that I had already witnessed the ending. The whole narrative swallows itself and is spewed out the other side, enjoyably rough around the edges, as brassy and bold as it could possibly be.
More than anything, it reminded me of Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Legend of 1900, a film which shows great faith in the audience’s willingness to be swept away by spectacle and romance. It was refreshing to see that, in Europe at least, they are still able to produce that most incredibly satisfying of film genres, the comedy-drama. It’s a shame that a film like this cannot negotiate wider distribution. My local multiplex is still showing Pirates of the Caribbean II on two screens, so a film like this has little chance of reaching anybody right now. But it’s out there, so make the effort to track it down! It’s more fun than witnessing Owen Wilson grin and grimace his way through his latest shit-binge.
Inconscientes (Unconscious) is currently playing in the UK and opens in limited release in the U.S. on November 24.