Dir/scr: Ramon Salazar.Sp-Fr. 2005. 113mins.

A bawdy, picaresque Spanish yarn about a transvestite whoyearns for a sex change operation (she has 20cm she wishes to dispense with -hence the title), Ramon Salazar's second feature carries obvious echoes of theearly work of Pedro Almodovar. There is the same irreverent humour, a sharedfascination with gender politics and a fondness for kitsch. Salazar throws in ahandful of Jacques Demy-style musical sequences as well as some spiritedslapstick. His energy and chutzpah are always evident, but the storytellinggrows increasingly choppy and episodic.

20 Centimentros will capture the curiosity of some foreigndistributors if only because of Salazar's billing as the new Almodovar. TheFarrelly brothers-style gross-out scenes (for instance, Marieta ejaculatingviolently and knocking over the toothpaste glass in the process) should appealto student audiences. Festival directors, too, may warm to what has been one ofthe better-liked films in competition in Locarno this year.

sAfter a world premiere inMalaga, the film didn't perform especially well in Spain, taking just over$365,000 since its mid-June release. Sales agent Sogepaq has already closed aNorth American deal with TLA Releasing as well as several European deals.

Marieta (played withtremendous elan by Monica Cervera) is a woman trapped inside a man's body. Shemakes a living as a prostitute and is saving up for a sex change operation. Theproblem is that she suffers from narcolepsy and has a tendency to fall fastasleep in the most inconvenient places.

Salazar shoots the film ingrainy, hand-held fashion. The grungy naturalism is contrasted with theexoticism of the fantasy sequences. Whenever she falls into a reverie, Marietaescapes into a world vaguely reminiscent of old MGM musicals (or, at least, poppromos spoofing them.) The choreography may not be quite up to Stanley Donenstandards, but Salazar's small army of extras hoof their way energeticallythrough such songs as I Want To Break Free and I Only Want To Be WithYou.

Some of the best scenesrevolve around Marieta's complicated domestic life. She shares an apartmentwith a likeable dwarf called Tomas (Miguel O'Dogherty) who dreams of gettingrich by scalping opera tickets. Marieta also helps look after her next-doorneighbour's son.

Salazar throws in onebrilliant set-piece in which all the residents in the apartment block (most ofwhom seem to be retired prostitutes) lean out of their windows and yellobscenities at one another across their shared courtyard. The insults grow evermore graphic, but this is simply the way these old-timers like to greet oneanother.

Craving respectability,Marieta throws in her life of prostitution and takes a job as a night cleanerat the railway station instead. For this job, she is required to dress in malegarb. Just when life is threatening to get very grim, her knight in shiningarmour appears. He is a handsome fruit-picker with "an ass like a peach" and avery large motorbike on which he whisks Marieta home after her fainting fits.The problem is that the fruit picker greatly enjoys Marieta's 20 centimetres.If she has her "dangler" (as it is inelegantly called) removed as planned, it'slikely that their relationship will grind to a halt.

The longer the film goes on,the more random it appears. Salazar throws in sub-plots about Tomas'sshort-lived career as an armed robber and the plight of prostitutes at the preyof brutal customers, but there is an increasing sense that this is a one-gagfilm. For all the invention of the musical scenes and Salazar's flair forcomedy, that single gag isn't quite enough to sustain a full-length feature.

Production companies
Alligator Producciones
Divine Productions
Estudios Picasso
Jet Films

International sales

Spanish distribution
Warner Sogefilms

Executive producers
Carlos Batres
Jose M Calleja
Iker Monfort
Maria J Poblador

Jose Maria Calleja

Ricadro De Gracia

Production design
Alejandro Prieto Barral

Teresa Font

Najwa Nimri
Pascal Gaigne

Main cast
Monica Cervera
Pablo Puyol
Miguel O'Dogherty
Pilar Bardem