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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Princesas
Princesas
IFC Films // Unrated // March 27, 2007
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Svet Atanasov | posted April 1, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Film:

On the backstreets of Madrid where immigrants, prostitutes, and ordinary people mingle two putas will establish an unusual friendship. Caye (Candela Peña), an enigmatic local girl who is visibly concerned by the fact that illegal girls would work a client for 10 Euro, and Zulema (Micaela Nevárez), a beautiful mother from the Dominican Republic who dreams of bringing her son to Spain, will discover that in a world where everything has a price you can not buy happiness.

Caye works the streets around a low-key hair-salon where the native "street-workers" often discuss the impact illegals have had on the "industry". Gone are the times when men would flock to pay 100 Euro for a quick session-demand is not as strong as supply and everyone is visibly concerned. Even Caye who used to fantasize about getting a new set of breasts now only dreams that her future boyfriend would pick her up after work.

Zulema gives "free-sessions" to a local man who has promised to provide her with working papers. But instead of getting closer to the coveted papers Zulema often finds herself with painful bruises-the man has a strange "hobby". Overtaken with fears about a possible deportation the young Latina begins to lose hope.

A sinister tale about life on the streets of Spain Princesas (2005), Fernando Leon de Aranoa's (Los Lunes al Sol a.k.a Mondays in the Sun) latest film, often feels like a documentary. Yet this is an extremely humane film, one that puts greater emphasis on societal virtues than what you would normally expect from a production where prostitution is so openly addressed. From the ongoing humiliation Zulema is forced to endure, all in the name of granting her son a better future, to the weekend lunches Caye would have with her family Princesas is also a film of heavy contrasts.

It strikes me as being rather odd that Spanish cinema has so quickly outpaced the rest of Europe when it comes to films that deal with provocative social themes. A new generation of Spanish directors has unceremoniously taken over what used to be a predominantly French specialty: cinema-verite. With films such as Iciar Bollain's Te doy Mis Ojos a.k.a Take My Eyes (2003); Joaquim Jorda's 3-hour long De Nens (2004), and Pedro Rosado's Agua Con Sal a.k.a Salt Water (2005) among others there is a fresh breeze blowing in from the Iberian peninsula.

Fernando Leon de Aranoa's Princesas most certainly belongs to the same group of films mentioned above. Even though occasionally the harsh tone of the film is softened up a bit with quirky jokes the overall feel in Princesas is that of desperation, perhaps even doom. The Spanish director successfully reaches to the bottom of a small community where women long for the same things "normal" people cherish. Only each day they must return to their "jobs", the ones that have taken so much away from them.

Official Film Site and Trailer:

http://www.princesaslapelicula.com/

Awards/ Recognition:

In 2006 the film won the Goya Awards for Best Lead Actress (Candela Pena), Best New Actress (Micaela Navarez), Best Original Song (Manu Chao). The Spanish Actors Union Awards for Best Female Performance (Candela Pena), Best Male Minor Role (Luis Callejo), the Newcomer Award (Micaela Navarez). In 2006 the film also won the Spanish Cinema Writers Circle Award< (CEC) for Best Actress (Candela Pena).

How Does the DVD Look?

A disappointing effort to say the least!! The R1 disc for Princesas is indeed presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been enhanced for widescreen TV's but unfortunately has been sourced from a PAL-master. IFC deliver a non-progressive print with plenty of heavy combing that will annoy a great deal those of you with more sensitive set-ups. I have a pretty good idea what has happened here and frankly I am anything but happy about it. IFC certainly could have done a better job with the conversion of this print as the Spanish SE 2DVD disc, which obviously has been copied here, is in top-notch condition (see review on TALK). The rest of the presentation is fine as colors and contrast are handled well. Yet, as far as I am concerned this is a quickly put-together, and cheap at that, disc which is far from the standards we accept as the norm. If interested in owning this marvelous film I strongly recommend that you look for the R2 Spanish release.

How Does the DVD Sound?

I don't have any reservations as far as the sound treatment is concerned. Obviously IFC have opted for the same 5.1 Spanish track found on the R2 disc and for the most part I am content with its status. There are no audio issues (hissing, drop-outs, or other) to be reported. With optional, large, English and Spanish subtitles.

Extras:

Exactly the same extras found on the Spanish disc are present here! There are two deleted scenes here, both with English subtitles, which have been rightfully ignored by the editors (An Illegal's Trouble and Cemetery Visit), the original theatrical trailer, the music video to the film, as well as a "Behind The Scenes" fragment with English subtitles which basically follows the crew as they prepare to shoot or are "in-process". In my opinion none of the extras contribute significantly to the film or its agenda.

Final Words:

A very disappointing release for a great film! IFC Films clearly could have provided a better transfer for this Spanish production given the excellent source material available. As it is I can not recommend that you waste your money on this mediocre disc! Instead I must point you toward the excellent 2DVD SE Spanish release or even better the collectable metal-tin (steelbook) 2DVD SE Spanish set. Own a quality product!!

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