Dir/scr: Daniel Sanchez Arevalo. Spain.2006. 105mins.

Pedro Almodovar's influenceis evident in Darkbluealmostblack,a kinky tragic-comic debut feature about dysfunctional families from Spanishwriter/director Daniel Sanchez Arevalo. But whereasthe master can make abrupt plot turns and mood shifts flow together smoothly, theundeniably promising Sanchez Arevalo tries too hard.

At home Darkbluealmostblackhas taken $1m-plus, while beyond that it has proved astalwart on the festival circuit (it recently played AFI Film Festival afterwinning several awards at the Europa Cinemas Labelprize at Venice Days among others). Although it has enjoyed some strong salesactivity, it may make less impact beyond Spain, especially inEnglish-speaking markets where it could suffer in comparison to more matureworks like Talk to Her and Live Flesh.

That said, distributors willing to take a chance look at this sexy pieceof film-making. Despite its flaws, Darkbluealmostblack marks Sanchez Arevalo - who has made several award-winningshort films, written for Spanish TV and received a Fulbright Scholarship tostudy film at New York's Columbia University- as a talent worth watching.

The title immediatelyrefers to a suit in a store that the main character, Jorge (QuimGutierrez), wants to buy for an interview but can't afford. In a wider context thenarrative charts the state of depressive urban angst that Sanchez Arevalo sees all of his characters as enduring.

Jorge, whoserebelliousness as a boy helped cause his father's incapacitatingstroke, now cares for the old man by working as their apartment building'smaintenance man. But he wants better, having attended college and set hissights on a good job. In the meantime he spends his leisure time hidden away onthe building's rooftop.

Darkbluealmostblack suffers from a sprawling screenplay inwhich Sanchez Arevalo struggles to interweave severalstories and characters; rather they feel shoehorned together than gracefullyinterconnected.

Quim Gutierrez, as Jorge, does his best, buttoo often his angst comes across as sullen affectation. In contrast Eva Pallares, as a sensitive young woman who Jorge is attractedto, proves a confident, gentle and winning presence. Yet all her scenes withGutierrez seem to end in frustration and repetition soon sets in.

The actingstandout, however, is Marta Etura, who with herbowl-top shag haircut and transfixing stare is reminiscent of Jane Fonda in Klute. Her deeplysensuous performance as Paula, a prison inmate desperately trying to use bothJorge and his comically thuggish older brother (Antonio de la Torre) to get pregnant, is exciting and powerful, and the filmcomes to life every time she appears. But her impact is somewhat dampened byhow Sanchez Arevalo gives equal time to several otherinferior storylines.

Technically, Darkbluealmostblack confirms Sanchez Arevaloas a gifted technical innovator. There are, for example, many instances when onecharacter's words initially appear to be spoken by another just before thescene changes; a startling transitional device on which he worked with shrewdcinematographer Juan Carlos Gomez and editor Nacho Ruiz Capillas.

Tesela PC
Canal Plus


Alta Classics

Jose Antonio Felez

Juan Carlos Gomez

Nacho Ruiz Capillas

Production design
Federico Garcia Cambero

Pascal Gaigne

Main cast
Quim Gutierrez
Marta Etura
Antonio de la Torre
Hector Colome
Raul Arevalo
Eva Pallares