Summer Rain (Mongrel, 2006) D: Antonio Banderas, w/ Alberto Amarilla, María Ruiz. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: n/a
First-time directors usually play it cautious, and when the first-timer is also an actor, you can count on a movie rich in great performances and not much else.
Not Antonio Banderas. He’s filled his directorial debut with montages, slow-motion, overexposure, flashbacks, dreams, soft focus, voice-overs and every other trick in the book. None of it is pointless flash, and very little is clichéd. Every device directly expresses, and sometimes comments on, the tumultous adolescent emotion at the heart of the story.
Three young men come of age during a hot summer in the 1970s in southern Spain. Miguelito (Alberto Amarilla) loses a kidney, discovers he’s a poet and falls in love with aspiring dancer Luli (María Ruiz), but she’s willing to let a sleazy lingerie salesman pay her way through the dance academy and Miguelito is secretly screwing the typing teacher. Things are worse for his buddies, who have to contend with betrayal and death.
Banderas’s approach subordinates plot and inherent melodrama to the emotion his cast delivers so well. Love is central, but it’s shown in a context of ambiguity and the onset of adult complexities. The cast is up to the task. Amarilla and Ruiz are thoughtful and passionate leads, and neither is selling cute.
Antonio Soler adapted Summer Rain from his own novel, and it would be interesting to hear what he and Banderas have to say about the film version. Alas, there are no extras.
EXTRAS Widescreen. Spanish audio. English, French subtitles.