Saura & Maura: In Carlos Saura’s straightest depiction of the Spanish Civil War Carmen Maura, familiar especially from Pedro Almodóvar’s films, plays the role of Carmela, the star of a variety show group. Big-mouthed, dramatic-looking Maura controls the movie, showing she deserves the many awards she received for her acting. When the three-person group leaves Aragon for a break from entertaining Republican troops to Valencia, which seems more peaceful, the group ends up behind enemy lines. Skills learned in their work need to be put into use to survive…
Once again, Saura’s film is about the relationships between art and life.
Compared to the director’s earlier similar movies, he brings new views into his observing of the war and Franco in his surprisingly straightforward work. The nonpolitical variety trio (in addition to Carmela, her husband Paulino and mute Gustavete), mostly concerned about staying alive, ends up as fascists’ prisoners and entertainers, but can still become aware of it’s mission, to realize their duty as folk artists.
Similarities to Ernst Lubitsch’s resistance comedy classic To Be or Not to Be (1942) have been noticed in the situation. Saura makes use of serious humor, which has it’s roots in the traditions of silent film, possibly more than ever, to the point of making his film farce-like. And occasionally political hit songs of the time are sung! (TM)