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The Ugliest Woman In The World
cast: Elia Galera, Roberto Alvarez, Hector Alterio, Javivi

director: Miguel Bardem

104 minutes (15) 1999
Nucleus DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
The Ugliest Woman In The World (aka: La mujer más fea del mundo) is an infuriating concoction of socio-political cinema and made-for-cult kitsch that badly loses its way over the course of its running time. Indeed, the opening 30 minutes are so deftly and subtly directed that one wonders whether a different director took over for the latter half of the movie, so far removed it is from the opening premise. Perhaps director, Miguel Bardem, is as two-faced as his star...

The film is set in the very near future of 2010, where Lieutenant Teniente Arribas (Roberto Alvarez) is sent to investigate the savage murder of an elderly lady at a nursing home on New Year's Eve. Through a series of improbable coincidences Arribas discovers that the victim was a previous winner of the annual Miss Spain contest, and it becomes apparent that a series of unsolved New Year murders over the past 11 years also had former Miss Spain winners as their victims. Whilst it is rather incredulous that this link hadn't occurred to the police in the past, up to this point the movie has already raised a plethora of interesting questions about our perceptions of beauty and the stage seems set for an intriguing - and comic - finale, so such plot twists can be smilingly forgiven.

The police investigations lead them to Doctor Werner (Hector Alterio), who relates the story of Lola Otero (Elia Galera), a woman so ugly that no one can face her without being sick or physically violent, who - due to his pioneering morphogenetic techniques - has been secretly transformed into a model that the Spanish press has labelled the most beautiful woman in the world. However, despite the transformation there is nothing so dangerous as a woman scorned which - without going into too much detail - explains why Lola has a thing about murdering former Miss Spain girls.

As stated above, where the movie initially succeeds is in the examination of the nature of beauty. The young Lola, whose face is never seen, is mocked, raped, and shunned by her schoolmates. Additionally, Arribas' detective also hides behind a mask that disguises his hair loss, single eye, and lack of teeth. And if this wasn't enough, Arribas' hapless colleague (played well by the actor, Javivi), has inadvertently fallen in love with a convincing transsexual and cannot decide whether to end the relationship. All these factors are ripe for an intelligent treatment, and whilst the movie initially succeeds on that level with some genuine laugh-out-loud comic moments interspersed with thoughtful pathos, it latterly - and unforgivably - descends into a Police Academy-type farce that utterly shatters the promise it might have delivered.

Having billed Lola in her pre-morphogenetic state as 'the ugliest woman in the world' what Bardem should have avoided at all costs was to show her face when a lack of drugs causes her to revert to being ugly. The audiences' imagination of ugliness would be sufficient, but in depicting her 'ugliness' way beyond the extent of normality, Bardem dehumanises her - cartoons her - and in doing so undermines the principles he had so carefully set up at the beginning. Overall, this is a movie worth watching, but also one where you'll be relieved to see the final credits roll.

There are numerous extras include screen shots and trailers, but the main 15-minute making-of documentary is a parody of such additions - and as such, it makes one realise that the actors involved were probably happy to distance themselves from the film.

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