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Between Your Legs
cast: Victoria Abril, Javier Bardem, Carmelo Gomez, Juan Diego, and Sergi Lopez

director: Manuel Gomez Pereira

115 minutes (18) 1999
widescreen ratio 16:9
Nucleus DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
The release of Manuel Gomez Pereira's Entre las piernas ('between the legs') on disc was introduced to me as the beginnings of a label devoted to Spanish cinema. The first three titles on Nucleus Films prove this not necessarily to be the case. Though La chica mas feo en el mundo is the second release, the third is the Just Jaeckin's erotic fantasy Gwendoline, a French title. Though there are rumblings that they mean to follow this with Àlex Ollé, Isidro Ortiz and Carlos Padrissa's terrific Fausto 5.0, which, because I caught it on its theatrical run in the UK, it had not occurred to me had yet to receive a DVD release. If neglected Spanish cinema of recent vintage is to comprise most of the label output it will be incredibly welcome, and just as Eureka and Tartan have found and secured a place in certain niches, so might Nucleus. The French and eastern movie scenes are well accounted for, and the Italians and the Germans have given us little to excite over of late. Debarring the South Americas, Spanish cinema on its own went through a golden age in the 1990s. The talent and the touch have not been lost and the great films continue to come... and continue to fail to see a release in the UK.

Viva, the Spanish Film Festival as hosted by the Cornerhouse in Manchester over the last 11 years has privileged patrons with screenings of many films, some going on to a marginal release or, as more often was the case, failing a release completely in any format. You had to be Almodovar or Luna to guarantee theatrical distribution while the French films had an honorary deal with releasers and specialist cinemas. Fernando Colomo's El efecto Mariposa, La Cuadrilla's Justino un asesino de la tercera edad, Alfonso Albecete and David Menkes' Sobrevivire, Jaume Baalguero's Los sin nombres, Mateo Gil's Nadie Conoce a nadie, Xavier Ribera's Tot Veri, Manuel Guiterrez-Aragon's Visionarios, Juanma Bajo-Ulloa's Airbag, were given short shrift and one awaits the fate of current fantastic Iberian produce like Pablo Malo's Frio Sol de Inverno, a precise and intimate little thriller, and Santi Amodeo's Astronautas, a fabulously quirky tale in which a junkie goes through a nine-step programme, with the assistance of an adorable young woman who turns up on his doorstep; a film that plays like the twin discovery of the new Richard Lester and the new Terry Gilliam in the one phenomenal package. A label to take advantage of the overlooked of Spanish cinema could soon run up a healthy catalogue. Some of the above feature early appearances by the likes of Eduardo Noriega and Paz Vega, nearly all have won Goyas, all good selling points, and perhaps one day we might see that Karra Elejalde boxset.

Entre las piernas is not a bad start for the catalogue, a multiple Goya winner, an erotic thriller, though probably sexier when it was made all of six years ago. That old chestnut the sex addicts anonymous meeting is the opening setting, two of the initiates unable to make it through the opening declaration. "Estoy enfermo. Soy un adicto del sexo. Necesito ayuda." One excuses himself, and a second follows him out. It still amazes me that these meetings don't routinely turn into orgies. Javiar Bardem and Victoria Abril are two of those seeking therapy.

The story backtracks to a day at the airport when Javier (Bardem), a scriptwriter, misses a plane and a beautiful woman who should have been on the same plane recalls a strange history of her own, of triplets that weren't, damp knickers and a sense that she's not who they tell her she is. It gets a lot stranger as she initiates a telephone conversation that kindles his future kink for telling perverted stories over the mobile. Most of his tales, the first recounting an adventurous favour in urination, end up in circulation as a cassette series, unbeknownst to him... and Ronco have nothing to do with it. He learns about the cassette collection only when his voice is recognised by a radio station colleague of Miranda (Abril) who works as the call-checker for a late night sex issues programme.

Miranda's husband, Felix, is a detective, the third major Spanish name in the film, Carmelo Gomez, a Medem veteran, and Bardem's Dias Contados co-star. He is a workhorse, taking the wife at home for granted. Further stress is placed on them by their daughter's respiratory complaint. Miranda alerts him to an affair when she calls his mobile when he just happens to be across the street in plain sight, and she is witnessed to appear to continue with a night nothing like the one she has just described to him. When a body turns up in a car, it is the same vehicle that Javier almost had a successful rut with Miranda inside of, and from here the plot doubles and triples.

The story splinters occasionally, and at first presumed a novel take, but not, looping back in come the end. It is only with increasing ridiculousness that it does that with a penchant for the daft that should work against it. Yet the film maintains the intrigue and keeps the interest and as a result the silliness is forgivable. In pretty much the same way you wouldn't want Hitchcock to lose his unlikelier highlights. Hitchcock has been mentioned, breached even, in relation to this film. Hitchcock is intoned by a Hermann-esque score from Bernardo Bonozzi, while in the absence of a Saul Bass, a snazzy opening title sequence is run up by someone as talented, a hypnotic, constantly changing and dancing pattern, with a touch of the 1970s about it. Superbly and fluidly shot throughout, there is not too much wrong with the film technically.

DVD extras include a making-of featurette, the trailer, four television spots and biographies for the three lead actors and the director.
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