Spanish new-wave director Bigas Luna is once again persona-non-grata for North American film buffs. With his latest Yo Soy La Juani a.k.a My Name is Juani (2006) without a domestic release date you will have to flex your import muscles if you wish to see it.
An ambitious provincial girl (Verónica Echegui) heads to Madrid determined to become an actress. Supported by her best friend (Laya Martí) she quickly tastes disappointment, the non-glamour side of show business. A painful relationship is also thrown in the mix causing the wannabe star to reconsider her career aspirations.
The premise behind Luna's latest isn't going to impress those looking for a refreshing piece of cinema. Yet, there is enough here that will likely entertain those familiar with the Spanish director's previous work. Snazzy, uninhibited, and bursting with energy Yo Soy La Juani comes off as an extended MTV clip with a surprisingly meaningful message.
Influenced by street culture and openly glorifying modern glam trends (fast and loud customized automobiles, excess-vogue, etc) Luna's return to mainstream cinema however feels a bit overboard - dialog is rough, camera work too hectic, the hip-hop soundtrack a few years late.
Yet, under the shiny wrapping pic remains surprisingly honest. The acting is strong and the message Yo Soy La Juani delivers not as dreadful as one might have assumed it would be. In addition pic's finale provides plenty of food for thought, even if one isn't as familiar with Spanish youth as Luna appears.
Note to potential viewers: regardless of the widespread comparisons with Rob Cohen's The Fast and the Furious (2001) Luna's film is far and away from worshipping mind-numbing street action.
Official Site and Trailer:
In 2006 the film won the Best Actress Award (Verónica Echegui) at the Barcelona Film Awards. In 2007 the film was nominated for with a Goya Award for Best New Actress. During the same year the film won the Best New Actress Award at the Sant Jordi Awards in Barcelona, Spain.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs Luna's latest arrives with a sparkling and very impressive print. Solid and very strong color reproduction, excellent degree of detail, hardly any edge-enhancement to be concerned about, and a lack of damage is what we have here. Furthermore, contrast is handled extremely well and I could not spot any notable fluctuations throughout. The print on the other hand is progressively converted and remains solid when blown through a digital projector. To sum it all up I am indeed utterly impressed with the vide treatment the Spanish distribs have provided. PAL-encoded.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a Spanish 5.1 track the audio treatment is on par with the video presentation. It is practically flawless and of the highest quality possible. DTS track is not provided but the density of the 5.1 track is outstanding: the rears are intelligently used, dialog is very easy to follow, and the special effects during the Madrid-portion of the film are striking. I also could not detect any audio dropouts or hissing(s). Finally, the main feature arrives with optional Castellan, Catalan, and English subtitles.
This lavishly produced 2DVD set arrives in an impressive digi-pack holder with engraved pink sparkling dots which are indeed very nicely done. The package also offers a complimentary large film poster which you could frame. The extras are placed on Disc 2 and unfortunately none of them are subtitled in English. The disc offers the original Spanish trailer, teaser, a gallery of deleted scenes, interviews with the director and cast, an entire section of video clips, Making Of, Filmographies, Cast info.
Manga Films deliver a lavish and truly impressive set for Bigas Luna's latest. In fact, the treatment this film has received is one of the best I have seen for a contemporary Spanish film during the last couple of years. Bravo. The actual film is quote enjoyable as well, if a tad over-polished for my taste. Given the excellent price tag and lack of US distrib: RECOMMENDED.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.