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Bigas Luna DVD boxset

Jamón Jamón
cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Stefania Sandrelli, Anna Galiena, and Jordi Molla

director: Bigas Luna

95 minutes (18) 1992
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Ian R. Faulkner
Having recently viewed Pedri Almodovar's excellent Volver (2006) and being particularly enamoured with the wonderful and beautiful Penelope Cruz, I had high expectations for Jamón Jamón, which, if my Spanish is correct, literally translates as 'ham, ham' in English.

The plot of the film is centred on the characters of Silvia (played by a very young Penelope Cruz who was only 18 when the film, the second of her career, was released), her lacklustre fiancé and the son of the town's underwear merchants, Jose Luis (Jordi Molla), and the local ham seller, wannabe bullfighter and hopeful underwear model, Raul (played by an equally young looking Javier Bardem).

Silvia, a shop worker in Jose Luis' parents' underwear factory, is pregnant by Jose Luis but is considered too low class by his mother, Conchita (played by Anna Galiena), for her to ever be a suitable bride - Silvia having been forever tainted in Conchita's eyes by the profession of her mother, Carmen (Stefania Sandrelli), a prostitute who runs the local truck stop bordello and who, it is hinted, has a past relationship Jose Luis' father (Juan Diego).

Conchita, in an effort to queer the romance, hires Raul to seduce and sleep with the beguiling Silvia, but in the process, inadvertently, falls for the Don Juan sausage seller herself. This strange turn of events begins the film's descent into even more bizarre territory (and that's saying something given the foreplay Carmen performs with a parrot for Jose Luis), as from this point on the relationships and couplings become rearranged, mixed up and down right weird, until by the film's finale every character has had intimate knowledge of a player other than their initial partner and one of Raul's hams has become the principle weapon in a very deadly jealous lover's brawl.

Okay, so plot aside, did Jamón Jamón meet my expectations? Well, yes and no. It is a funny and entertaining movie. The humour is a dark and offbeat humour: witty and satirical and occasionally completely twisted; the dialogue and situations are truly odd - naked bullfights, cooked pet pigs, and Ms Cruz's breasts being compared to ham and potato omelettes - but it also comes across as a little indifferent and flippant to the plight of its characters; the extraneous quirkiness and obvious sexual symbolism begin to tire; and, worst of all, Silvia's crucial third act change of heart is too contrived to be believable and leads the viewer to ultimately become indifferent to the plight of film's protagonists.

Penelope Cruz and Anna Galiena in Jamon Jamon

On a plus point, Penelope Cruz is, as always, exceptional: especially when you consider her age and inexperience at this point in time. Her acting is absolutely first rate and is only marginally hobbled by the contrivances of the plot and, from a purely personal perspective, is as sexy as hell.

Overall, Bigas Luna and Jamón Jamón will not be to everyone's taste; the film is not your typical romantic black comedy, but if you can get past the absurdity of the plot and fancy a mildly erotic film about love, food, sex, death and machismo, then this is for you.

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