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Vacas
cast: Emma Suárez, Carmelo Gómez, Ana Torrent, Txema Blasco, and Karra Elejalde

director: Julio Medem

92 minutes (15) 1992
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region '0' retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Fighting in the trenches at Biscay in 1875, Carmelo Mendiluze (Carmelo Gómez) finds that a man from the same village as him, Manuel Illegori (Txema Blasco) is in his battalion. An act of cowardice by Carmelo causes a feud between the two families, which is not resolved until two generations later.
   Julio Medem made his name with his second film, the intriguing thriller The Red Squirrel, which impressed Stanley Kubrick so much that he bought a 35mm print for himself. Vacas was Medem's first film, which has not had a commercial release in the UK before now. It has all the materials of an epic, but Medem's postmodern sensibility (already in evidence) compresses, elides and omits certain elements of traditional epic structure, hence the short running time. Admittedly some of this is due to the fact that only two-thirds of the script was actually filmed, for budgetary reasons. The cows of the title, silent witnesses to the unfolding events, are the first sign of another Medem tendency, to symbolism that's occasionally a little too private and obscure (a prime example of which being much of his third film, Tierra). But his visual strength is not in doubt. A strong cast is left to fend for themselves; viewers should note that several actors play two roles (or in Gómez's case, three), which may cause some confusion. There's plenty of talent in evidence in Vacas, but for me at least it didn't come into fruition until Medem's stunning fourth feature, The Lovers Of The Arctic Circle, one of the best films I saw in 2000.
   DVD extras: theatrical trailer, filmographies, stills gallery, film notes by Roger Stone, trailers for Tartan's other Medem releases (The Red Squirrel, Tierra, The Lovers Of The Arctic Circle, and Sex And Luc´┐Ża - currently in cinemas).
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