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Bilingual Lover (Spanish Release), The
Based on Juan Marse's explicit novel Vicente Aranda's El Amante Bilingue a.k.a The Bilingual Lover (1993) is the latest addition to CineEspanol, a collection of classic and popular Spanish films, distributed by Warner Bros-Spain.
El Amante Bilingue tells the story of a middle-age man with a disfigured face who makes ends meet by performing with his accordion on the streets of Barcelona. Wearing a large plastic mask, resembling the one immortalized by the Phantom of the Opera, Juan (Imanol Arias) dreams of reuniting with his former wife (Ornella Muti). She is however unaware that the street musician who speaks Catalan without an accent and greets her daily in front of her office is Juan.
Deceitfully explicit and openly critical of Franco's regime Aranda's adaptation of El Amante Bilingue allows for plenty of different reads. Eroticism, nationalism, and politics are mixed to perfection in what can only be described as a colorful Spanish satire. From the occasional jabs at fascism and class division to the sensitive flirtation with Catalan lingo pic revives memories of Spain from the 80s, colorful yet controversial.
Perhaps the biggest surprise here is the presence of Italian actress Ornella Muti who delivers a memorable performance as the aristocratic ex-wife with an insatiable libido whose curvaceous body drives the main protagonist insane. The numerous sex scenes, most of them with an offbeat sense of humor, confirm that there was a reason why Aranda opted for Muti. The Italian actress reveals a ravishing temperament with a convincing Catalan flavor only a selected few could have recreated this well on the big screen.
Unlike fellow Catalan director Bigas Luna (The Tit and the Moon) whose work often deals with complex human emotions Aranda's films focus on the social factor, the social environment the main protagonists are attached to. In fact the inevitable political dissection his films deliver is always far more enjoyable than the typically predictable outcome they provide (Amantes).
Pic offers a notable cameo by Spanish superstar Javier Bardem (Mar Ardento) and a surprising appearance by Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien).
In 1994 the film was nominated for Best Screenplay - Adapted (Mejor Guión Adaptado) at the Spanish Goya Awards.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs the film looks very good. A crisp and pristine looking print has been provided by WB-Spain truly complimenting the film's lush color scheme. Contrast is very well handled while digital artifacts are practically unnoticeable. Edge-enhancement does seem to pop-up occasionally but in the larger scheme of things it is well under control. The print is progressive and tight to the frame remaining solid when blown through a digital projector. The only negative with this presentation is the presence of some minor macro-blocking towards the very end of the film which also is more than tolerable. PAL-encoded, Region 2.
How does the DVD Sound?
WB have supplied the original Catalan audio which is presented in two versions: a 2.0 mix and a more elaborate 5.1 track. There are no issues of concern here as dialog is very easy to follow while the likeable soundtrack is handled marvelously. The disc provides optional English subtitles.
There are number of extras here but unfortunately they don not appear subtitled in English. You will find a Making Of, Footage from the Montreal Film Festival, Spanish-interviews from Cinemania, deleted scenes, text-synopsis, Filmographies, Cast-info, and the original Spanish theatrical trailer.
Another marvelous entry in the CineEspanol series from WB-Spain. Spanish new-Wave director Vicente Aranda's early work is practically impossible to see in a decent form (and English-friendly) so I am thrilled to be able to add yet another one of his films in my collection. Given the excellent price tag the DVD comes with I must recommend it highly.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.