Cria Cuervos (Raise Crows) is a brilliant film from Carlos Saura. It follows three sisters and how they deal with the deaths of their mother and father. It's a heartbreaking film but also full of surreal touches and wonder.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
CRIA CUERVOS... Y TE SACARÁN LOS OJOSAug. 9 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Finally, it appears, Criterion is getting around to releasing some of the many great Spanish films of the past decades. High time they noticed there have been some astounding Spanish films and directors beyond Luis Buñuel, undoubtedly the great master. But Saura, Berlanga, Bardem, Borau, Erice, Bigas Luna, and quite a few more I could name, have directed some masterpieces that also deserve the special Criterion teatment. After the recent and excellent release of El Espíritu de la Colmena (Spirit of the Beehive), now comes Cría Cuervos, a fascinating parable, somewhere between fantasy and reality, that beyond the too obvious symbolism of a country finally liberating itself from a long dictatorship, it is an intelligent exploration of the scary world of troubled childhood. And Ana Torrent (the same girl of Spirit of the Beehive) speaks volumes just with those incredible dark eyes. My copy is in its way, but I don't doubt Criterion transfer and worthy extras will deserve a 5-star rating.
UPDATING: Having just received my copy, I can say I am very pleased with the excellent transfer of the movie. It looks great. But I am even more impressed by the extras on the second disc:. Mainly, a wonderfully insightful portrait of Carlos Saura (more than one hour long), produced by TVE (state-run Spanish tv) in 2004 -unfortunately in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer-, which I found as interesting as the film itself. Also a 20-minute incredibly candid and perceptive interview in English with Geraldine Chaplin (done for Criterion in 2007 susprisingly not in widescreen). I had the pleasure of interviewing the actress some years back for a Spanish publication and I knew how good and revealing she was in conversation with the press, unlike most film actors. But I was surprised by some of her intimate revelations in this one. Another 8-minute conversation with Ana Torrent shot for the Criterion Collection as well (this one in anamorphic widescreen!) is also welcomed, but should have been conducted in Spanish, as the actress is no so fluent with her English.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Saura the only director to survive Franco's SpainJuly 17 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Ana Torrent(the dark-eyed beauty from The Spirit if the Beehive) portrays the disturbed 8 year old Ana,living in Madrid with her two sisters,mourning the death of her mother whom she conjures as a ghost.The children are in their summer vacations. Cria Cuervos is about the wounded feminine psyche that is Spain.The male patriarchy of Franco's Spain is represented by Ana's father,who was a General in Franco's army, and like Franco is about to die.Women in Catholic Spain have been repressed,subdued,stereo-typed.Ana's mother(Chaplin) has had to give up a career as a pianist to become a housewife in a loveless marriage,whose husband,a philanderer, refuses to understand her depression or talk to her.The film is about the ghosts of memory,the psychological interpenetration of the past,present and future,reality and fantasy,in Ana's head.Her aunty is responsible for the sisters' care.
Porque te vas,the juvenile pop song sung by Jeannette, which expresses Ana's rebellion,is in fact an ode to lost loves, abandoned hopes. For the singer,even the sun shining on a city window is a sign that her lover must soon leave. The present may thus prove as depressing as the past.For Ana,the past is not past,we see her interacting with her dead mother as if she is still alive.When the sisters play dress-up,it is to expertly recreate the bitter arguments of their dead parents.Her interactions with her mother(Geraldine Chaplin),is fantasised by the grieving child.What will become of Spain with Franco's death(indirectly alluded to in Porque te vas)?Spain has been ruled by a fascist military junta since 1939, for 36 years Spain has been under tight social control.Saura shows the intimacy that the living and dead cohabit especially when fragile psyches are frozen in time by trauma.Although this was not made as a political film, Saura had made critiques of Franco in previous films, but had not been censored in this one and had total artistic control. The title refers to the baleful effects of Franco's Fascist regime on children.Trauma is linked to repression.Their auntie doesn't want to discuss their parents with them,but they learn more from fleshly housekeeper Rosa(e.g. when the war ended).The girls brandish the guns they say their father has left them(Ana will take aim at her hated aunt),a legacy of the violence bequeathed from one generation to another from guilty,forgetful adults to uncomprehending children.Little Ana inherits her father's dark side, believing she has incurred her father's death or poisoned her aunty with drinks of poison,she believes she has power over life and death. She plays a game of hide and seek with her sisters,asks them to be dead,then brings them back to life.This bad education is the meaning of the title,from a Spanish proverb:"Raise ravens and they'll peck out your eyes." But in reality the young have been doomed by their parents' generation to live in an anachronistic world of lies and illusion.Ana's mother on her death bed says its all lies,meaning also that there's no after-life,no God,nothing.
The house is a metaphor of the regime shut off behind barriers,the venetian blinds mimic prison bars,its deathly quiet broken by noisy shots of the street outside, with its lurid posters for consumer goods and oppressively heavy traffic.Saura suggests that memories may be repressed,but, like the inescapable sounds of the city,they will return as ghosts,haunting all Spaniards as they do the characters in Cria Cuervos. With little guidance and supervision, the children create an insular world that reflects the conflict, pain, and uncertainty of the enigmatic and impenetrable adult world around them.They escape from patriarchy in the scene where the girls dance together.The girls accept or reject the roles imposed on them.The girls thus submit to having their hair combed but flatly refuse to eat decorously.The girls look ahead to an uncertain future in which they may not have the control they'd like over their destinies.Chaplin's grown-up Ana says:"I remember childhood as an interminably long and sad time." But as she loaths it, she also longs for it too.The adult Ana is played by the same actress as her mother,because she is condemmed to repeat her mother's mistakes,locked in a repetition compulsion.
She recalls her childhood animosity to her callous,philandering father,blaming him for her mother's slow illness and death.Childhood, the ghost story she tries to understand, it being a time of radical invincibility, interminable ,sad,full of potency.Saura through the cinematography aligns us with the little girl's point of view, using subjective shots as she contemplates her dead father and adulteries.By juxtaposing low angle medium shots(the children's perspective)with fluid crane shots of a bird's-eye view, there is an incongruous unity of child naivete with an ominous sense of instinctive cruelty,a tragic and unresolved legacy of a lost and misguided childhood.Irene's dream of her kidnapping asks if they are being educated for a world that no longer exists?Walking in their Catholic uniforms, will it lead to a world of openness or closure,the fusion of haunted past,and indeterminate nation emerging from the shadows?.Chaplin is a revelation playing as she does a figment of a child's memory.Unforgettable.Good extras 1 hour life of Saura,interviews with Chaplin,Torrent,Essay on the film.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"Cría cuervos y te arrancarán los ojos" -- "Raise ravens, and they'll pluck out your eyes!"April 30 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Ana (played by 9-year-old Ana Torrent) is one of three daughters in a wealthy Madrid family. The plot of "Cria Cuervos" is nonlinear and somewhat difficult to describe without giving away too much. However, what is revealed very early is that Ana's mother has died of cancer, for which Ana blames her philandering father. Ana tries to kill her father with what she thinks is poison, and he dies of an apparent heart attack. During the rest of the movie, Ana struggles to adjust to living with her aunt, and we see in flashback some of the arguments between her parents.
I was expecting "Cria Cuervoes" to be a thriller, but instead it's more of a psychological drama. Nevertheless, I found it fascinating. "Cria Cuervos" is exceptionally well acted and the direction by Carlos Saura is superb. I have never particularly liked Geraldine Chaplin, but she's very good here, even somewhat sexy at times. Notably, she was in a long-term relationship with Saura, and he obviously knew how to bring out her best acting. "Cria Cuervos" takes its time telling the story and isn't afraid to include scenes that add tone and atmosphere, such as Ana and her sisters dancing to "Porque te vas," which later became a global hit for Jeanette. Even though the plot is somewhat slow and never really takes off as I expected, I was fully rapt during the entire movie and was even sorry when it ended. I wanted to see more of this world.
The movie offers an astute examination of how a child might try to process confusing arguments between her parents. Ana clearly sides with her mother and against her military father. The movie has some political overtones and was made in the final months of the Franco regime against which director Saura was a vocal opponent. I have to admit that I don't know enough about that era to fully comprehend the political symbolism; however, that didn't prevent me from appreciating the film. I had never heard of Carlos Saura before, but he apparently was well-known on the international movie scene during the 1970s. The movie was a success at the Cannes Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize, and it also was nominated for Best Foreign Movie at the Golden Globes. "Cria Cuervos" is a very different movie that I found intriguing enough to want to seek out more of Saura's work.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A somewhat heavy-handed, but still interesting allegoryApril 28 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
As a very thinly veiled allegory about the Franco regime, this film works quite well. Showing the military uniforms at the funeral and then the song "Porque te vas," which was popular with the anti-Franco youth, are absolute dead giveaways. Saura obviously wanted to show the kind of negative effects fascism has on the long-term health of a society. The severely pathological behavior of Ana is clearly symbolic. The war game where she kills her siblings and then brings them back to life through prayer shows the relationship of the fascists to the Church. All the females in the film are severely impaired in different ways, showing the deleterious effects of the Franco regime and conservative Catholicism on women, whose roles were extremely restricted. All the tight-shot cinematography focuses the viewer on the children, while the city and all its noise are viewed in wide shots to make it seem threatening and brutal, like Spanish society at the time. The use of city noise was very good....a little bit reminiscent of Fellini's even more stunning use of sound in "Roma."
I still have the same trouble with this film that I had the first time I saw it many many years ago. When Ana doesn't react at all to seeing her father dead, we suspect there is symbolism going on here, because even a child who resented her father would show some sort of emotion. Then, when she doesn't react at all to her mother's agony, we clearly see that Saura is using symbolism to show how Spanish society was being traumatized, since we know that Ana loved her mother. If you take her robotic behavior literally, you have to think either (a) that she is in shock or severely impaired, which is definitely not borne out in the rest of the film, or (b) that she is more or less a "demon seed," which does actually seem to be where Saura is going with this. Ana has become a little "cuervo" who will tear our eyes out, as in the proverb "Cría cuervos y te arrancarán los ojos" ("Raise crows and they will tear out your eyes"). The problem I have may just be a matter of taste or preference, but I think it would be possible to maintain the allegory with a more psychologically realistic style of acting, rather than having Ana act like a little robot. Even her gestures of distress, as when she strangely opens and closes her eyes in bed after thinking that she has poisoned her aunt, seem more symbolic than psychologically realistic. She never cries, she never breaks down, she never shows genuine (rather than merely symbolic) vulnerability. She is more of a figure in an allegory than a real child. I think this is what Saura wanted, but I think that both the allegory and a more realistic style of acting could have been doubly powerful. This would have been a real masterpiece. ...But then I think I have trouble with the darkness of the Spanish sensibility in general.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Secret of AnaMay 8 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
It is hard to be a child no matter what country or times you live in. It is unbearably painful for a child to lose their most beloved and close person in the world, to miss them enormously, to try to come to terms with their loss, to make sense of it. It is hard to live during the time of historical changes in your country even if you live during the time of peace when the devastating wars are over and your family belongs to the privileged ones. Is childhood really a happiest, most innocent, brightest time in life of a person or is it confusing, scary, sad? Or both? Is a child who honestly wishes her caregiver dead, a little psycho or is she innocent and the wish is her way to cope with the reality that her beloved mother would never again smile at her, kiss her and play piano for her and nobody would ever substitute her however hard they try? I kept asking all these questions while watching the truly beautiful, dreamlike, absolutely non-sentimental, serious yet optimistic and darkly funny film Cria Cuervos aka Raise Ravens or Secret of Ana written/directed and produced by one of the Spanish most celebrated filmmakers, the favorite director of Luis Bunuel, Carlos Saura. Nine years old Ana Torrent, a delicate little girl with the huge sad dark eyes that look directly in your soul and see something way beyond this world, is IMO one of the most memorable and touching children actors I recall. Continuing with the theme of her fascinating and unforgettable debut at 1973 Spirit of the Beehive, she gives in Cria Cuervos performance of the life time as a little girl who creates the fantasy world where death has no power over her love for her dearly departed mother. Cria Cuervos is an amazing must see movie. Very much can and has been said about its complexity and symbolism, and analogies with the real changes in the political and social life in Spain at the time. I just want to add that it is a perfect sublime movie made by a very talented and intelligent director about complexity of the times of childhood that could be happy yet very sad.