Jamon Jamon [Import]
Salted pork shanks as leitmotiv in a dark comedy about an absurd love triangle: this is what post-Franco cine is all about (food and sex). Spanish tortillas (i.e., potato omelets) are also big in this one. Director José Juan Bigas Luna's Jamón Jamón is intelligent, wry, and--despite the formulaic narrative that melodrama must essentially contain--unpredictable. At times his film exudes a certain Almodóvar flavor, but there is an edge, perhaps a heavy-handedness, to the dark humor that is either Luna's success or his downfall. The film garnered the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, after all. Try to follow: sexy Penelope Cruz (Belle Epoque) is growing up with her mother outside town on the highway, on the wrong side of the highway. Together they run a truck stop where cars and life literally race past. Cruz is in love with Jordí Molla, by whom she is pregnant. Molla's bourgeois mother, played by Anna Galiena (Being Human), thinks he can and should do better. (Of course, neither Cruz nor his mother knows of the erotic, hmm, avian interludes Molla enjoys on the side.) To save her son from the lower classes, Galiena hires Javier Bardem, a muscular, pretty man (whose regular consumption of the pork he distributes for a living has enhanced his sexual appeal) to pursue Cruz. The dark comedy finds a proper ending to the triangle in a grotesque but comedic landscape of death. This is not a cookie-cutter movie but rather one that will resonate with both your light and dark sides. After each surprise, you'll chuckle, feel guilty, and chuckle again. --Erik Macki
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The acting is great, especially by Bardem. The script has alot of subtle one-liners, and the sex and nudity is explicit and contributes to the anything goes atmosphere. So if you're looking for a fun dark/tragic comedy with lottsa sex, pick this one up.
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Anyway, "Jamon Jamon" (translation: Ham Ham) takes it's story straight from those overblown dramas of the 1980's like "Dynasty" or "Knot's Landing". The twist is just how far these characters will go to fulfill their "lustful" desires in spite of the consequences. Although every character in the film is dead serious, this is actually a comedy, and not a bad one at that. A sort of "Dallas goes Airplane" without the cheap gags.
To describe the plot without giving away too much is daunting, but here goes; A young man has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. His parents, who run a successful underwear business, dissaprove of their son marrying the daughter of a prostitute. So his mother hires one of the underwear models to seduce the girlfriend, but the mother falls for the underwear model.
With me so far, good. Here's where it gets complicated;
The young man (remember him?) is also having a dallience with the young girl's mother (the prostitute). Meanwhile, the underwear model manages to seduce the young girl, but is still bedding down with the mother (the underwear Mother). The young man has now become insanely jealous which leads to a confrontation with the underwear model. The father of the young man is about the only character with his head on straight, but even he gets involved in this mess.
The performances are first rate and the sex/nude scenes are plentiful. Perhaps the most outlandish is a bullfight with the matadors in the nude (definately something for the ladies...and perhaps a few guys as well).
Those interested in seeing what a young (19 years old at the time) Penelope Cruz looks like nearly naked will not be dissapointed. This film is definately not for the kids.
Overall, "Jamon Jamon" is a very well made comedy whose laughs come from the characters, not from any "jokes". I can certainly recommend it to those looking for a more "sophisticated" sex comedy. The type that American film makers have trouble pulling off...so to speak.
Trivia: The box cover depicts probably the most dramatic sex scene in the film. Problem is, the two people depicted are not the actors in the scene. Perhaps it's a rip on Romance novel book covers?
Silvia (a very young Penélope Cruz) lives with her prostitute mother (Stefania Sandrelli) in a truck stop bordello, obviously in the lower caste of society. Silvia works in the Under Wear factory owned by the parents (Anna Galiena and Juan Diego) of Penelope's boyfriend José Luis (Jordi Molla). Penelope is pregnant by José Luis but of course this low class association will never do to his mother so she sets about to distract Silvia from José Luis's attentions. Enter a ham seller and wannabe bullfighter Raúl (the very buff and hunky young Javier Bardem) who is a macho as they come (a night scene where Raúl and his handsome friend played by Tomás Martín fight a bull in the nude is the pinnacle of machismo!) whom the mother hires to distract Silvia. But the plot thickens when the intended coupling becomes crazily rearranged (Raúl has sex with José Luis's mother, José Luis seeks out the corporal companionship of Silvia's prostitute mother, José Luis's father grasps for Silvia, etc) until the sextet comes to a strange ending on the twilight plains of Spain.
This color-saturated movie by cinematographer José Luis Alcaine is a visual delight and the accompanying musical score by Nicola Piovani adds just the right amount of spice. But it is the extraordinary acting of the young actors who were to become international stars - Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Jordi Mollà - that bring the excitement and aura of sensuality to this very controversial film. José Juan Bigas Luna is a terrific combination of Dalí, Almodóvar, Cocteau, and Buñuel, but he carries his dark comedic sense into the critical eye of the human microscope. The film is a delight and a joy to see, if only to watch the three big names at their early stages! Grady Harp, November 06
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