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Whore and the Whale (Spanish Release), The
On the far Southern shores of Patagonia, where the ocean is always warm and whales come to mate, two beautiful women will have to rediscover their past: one trapped in the body of a sinner, the other ensnared in the body of a saint.
When Vera (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) is given a small box of pictures from an Argentinean soldier who fought in the Spanish Civil War she embarks on a journey to her forgotten homeland to discover the story behind a beautiful woman the young man was in love with. While searching for answers she is diagnosed with breast cancer and hospitalized next to an older woman with only a few days left to live.
Lola (Merce Liorens), a beautiful whore, who once wanted to reach the end of the world, is now living a life full of bitter disappointments. The man she loved has left her alone in the hands of a blind musician whose only joy in life is playing the bandoneon. In the shallow beaches of Patagonia, where the ocean is her only friend, Lola will once again learn to be free.
I saw La Puta Y La Ballena a.k.a The Whore and the Whale (2004) two years ago not knowing what to expect. The film, whose beauty is virtually unmatched by anything I have seen in Spanish cinema during the last 15 years, is indeed one of the most successful Argentine-Spanish co-productions with a story that only Jorge Luis Borges could have scribbled. Set amidst the breathtaking shores of Southern Patagonia and the hectic world of modern-day Spain this most unusual film about love, redemption, and human suffering is everything that I adore about cinema: great acting, beautiful cinematography, a music score that makes your blood boil, and an intelligent story that never seizes to surprise.
Directed by Luis Puenzo whose 1985 film La Historia Official a.k.a The Official Story won him an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film The Whore and the Whale is without a doubt a film that should have made the top ten list of every film aficionado that has a wealthy knowledge of international cinema. However, instead of receiving a massive promotion in North America and Canada and announcing the rise of Merce Liorens whose beauty men will surely talk about for years to come our old friends at Buena Vista have once again concluded that Spanish-Argentine cinema isn't worthy of recognition.
There is very little that I could put in writing that would not make me look like a man whose appreciation for The Whore and the Whale isn't biased. As mentioned above there is nothing in cinema that I like more than a heartbreaking story complimented by passionate music. And if Spanish tango is something your heart desires then the beautiful women dancing in The Whore and the Whale should put a childish smile on your face. There is love, there is lust, and there are enough hot Spanish temperaments in this production to make a Carlos Saura film look innocent.
Winner of the Silver Condor Award for Best Art Direction granted by the Argentinean Film Critics Association (2004); Madridimagen Award for Best Cinematography, Madrid (2004), Goya Nomination for Best Costume Design (2005).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's this Spanish R2 release offers a nearly flawless print with deep and vibrant colors, excellent degree of contrast, spectacular detail, and no print damage that I could notice. The image is tight to the frame and edge enhancement is practically a non-issue with this DVD. With this said, I can not describe to you what it means to see this film in a 2.35:1 ratio (a ratio that a skillful director could do so much with) – the beautiful shores of Patagonia and the overhead scenes showing the whales approaching the coast is absolutely breathtaking!! Region 2, PAL encoded.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original Spanish 5.1 track and optional French and English subtitles (white) the audio quality is also flawless. The lush tango score comes off the speakers revealing some of the most beautiful melodies you would ever hear. Great ambience (listen to the echo of the shoes while the tango is being danced) and sharp and crisp sound transform this film into a pure bliss. Indeed there is absolutely nothing wrong with this presentation that I could detect.
The only extras on this DVD are a gallery of trailers (both the Argentinean and Spanish versions), a short "making of", and the filmographies for the director and cast. The "making of" is not English-friendly.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and enjoy this most intoxicating film!! What a spectacle! For a long time I could not import the Argentinean DVD as the price was too steep and twice my order was canceled. Well, the Spanish release appears to be an exact replica (judging by the specs of the Argentinean DVD) and looking at its price there is absolutely no reason why you should not own this film in your collections. Strictly for film connoisseurs!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.