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LA SPAGNOLA

SYNOPSIS:
It’s the summer of 1960 and a dust storm coincides with the stormy break up of fiery Lola’s (Lola Marceli) marriage to Ricardo (Simon Palomares), who drives off with the family savings, leaving Lola and their daughter Lucia (Alice Ansara) poverty stricken in a dusty Australian industrial town. To her chagrin, he buys a car and romances Australian blonde Wendy (Helen Thomson); Lola fumes and rants while Lucia, 14, tries to hang in there. After several desperate attempts to get men like Stafano (Alex Dimitriades) to pay her rent for her favours, Lola is desperate – when Ricardo dies of cholestorol overdose. Lola devises a plan to get into that new car – it’s her inheritance. But things get complicated when long suffering Lucia hatches an alternate plan.

Review by Andrew L. Urban
Boisterous and for the most part well paced, La Spagnola follows a tradition of largely European (certainly not Australian) films that take a lighthearted approach to explore a central character whose actions drive changes in others around them. Lola – who 30 years ago might have been played by Sophia Loren - is the cause and the catalyst of actions; her husband and her daughter take different courses, but they both leave her one way or another. Lola is the key, too, to the film’s energy, and Spanish actress Lola Marceli excels at energy. But she comes with a track record. The real discovery in this entertaining debut from director Steve Jacobs, is young Alice Ansara as Lucia, a riveting and powerful performance that would make a seasoned actor proud. Her stillness is her biggest weapon – her ability to engage and communicate with a simple look that hides a seething inner turmoil. Ansara single-handedly anchors the film and makes us care. There are a few flat spots in the middle, but the film’s enormous opening impetus carries it through to a satisfying ending.

Review by Louise Keller
Quirky and energetic, La Spagnola is fresh, funny observant look at a family's inability to communicate. Using language as the key, Anna-Maria Monticelli's vibrant characters with a zesty lust for life jump from the screen and beckon us into a crazy world of eccentricity, volatility and chaos. It's an impressive debut feature for both Monticelli and husband director Steve Jacobs, who have together created an authentic dysfunctional family of multi-dimensions as well as multi-culture. Humour is unforced, relying on the natural evolution of real-life situations to create impact, while Cezary Skubiszewski's wonderful music is cleverly used to great effect. A cross between Looking for Alibrandi and Bread and Tulips, La Spagnola not only establishes an authentic explosive relationship between mother and daughter, but develops their individual stories. Lola Marceli is fabulous as fiery, hot-tempered Lola; she embodies passion and volatility like a whirling torpedo that cannot be abated and is wonderfully counteracted by Alice Ansara, who displays extraordinary screen presence and control as her young ugly-duckling daughter Lucia. Lola is theatrical in her passion; it comes as no surprise when she throws herself in front of her meandering husband's car saying: 'Run over me – that's the only way you'll be free!' But the entire cast is terrific with Alex Dimitriades intense and perfectly cast as a sexist charmer, who tries his luck not only with mother, but also with her blossoming daughter. It's a colourful bunch of characters that exude individuality and demonstrate their emotions with no inhibitions or restraints. I especially enjoyed the rhythms and impact of the first half, which positively sizzles with imaginative craft and filmmaking. Energy levels and script take a little dip mid stream when Lola's ravings become a little repetitive, but La Spagnola is definitely an audience pleaser, a delightful, very different Australian film that guarantees to entertain.

Review by David Edwards
The so-called Australian grotesque style is definitely an acquired taste. In La Spagnola, director Steve Jacobs creates a tale of family and growing up in a small community using that same larger-than-life style that marked films like Welcome to Woop Woop and A Fistful of Flies. Unfortunately, the result is uneven; with the film’s better moments interspersed among scenes that misfire. The story of a teenage girl coming to terms with her bizarre family has been done recently and better in Looking for Alibrandi; while the film’s commentary on multiculturalism really doesn’t add much to what was said in They’re a Weird Mob. The script meanders somewhat, dealing with the family issues in a manner that’s more bewildering than enlightening; and its preoccupation with cars doesn’t help. Its overall look and design is also strange. We’re meant to accept that the action takes place in a small (presumably rural) community, yet there’s a huge oil refinery in the town; leaving the film with a fractured feeling. What La Spagnola does have going for it however are two wonderful central performances from noted Spanish actress Lola Marcelli and newcomer Alice Ansara as the mother and daughter at the centre of the story. Marcelli brings Latin fire to the juicy role of the woman wronged by a cheating man. Her performance lifts the film at crucial moments. Ansara is more restrained as Lucia, providing the level-headed foil for Lola’s fieriness and giving the film its tender heart. It also features one particularly outrageous scene that’s sure to be talked about for some time. While it has several fine values, La Spagnola ultimately fails to fire on all cylinders. Certainly it’s an ambitious film; but fails to realise its potential.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
ALICE ANSARA

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

See the TRAILER

LA SPAGNOLA (M)
(Aust)

CAST: Lola Marceli, Alice Ansara, Lourdes Bartolome, Alex Dimitriades, Simon Palomare

DIRECTOR: Steve Jacobs

PRODUCER: Anna-Maria Monticelli

SCRIPT: Anna-Maria Monticelli

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steve Arnold

EDITOR: Alexandre De Franceshi

MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dee Molineaux

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

LANGUAGES: Spanish, Italian, English

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 20, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: AV CHANNEL

VIDEO RELEASE April 17, 2002







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