'Jamón, jamón' is a tremendously creative movie by director José Juan Bigas Luna and his writing partner Cuca Canals (Son de mar, Volavérunt, Bámbola, Lumière et compagnie, La Teta y la luna, and Huevos de oro), a film that is a dark comedy but not in the ho-ho manner: the comedy is the human comedy and watching it evolve may at times make the viewer avert the eyes because of its truthfulness.
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