Sunday, September 10, 2006

Common Wealth

2000, Spain, directed by Alex de la Iglesia (original title: La Comunidad)

A wacky Hitchcockian riff, Alex de la Iglesia's film is the blackest of comedies, with Carmen Maura as a real estate agent who discovers riches in an old apartment building only to find that the other tenants are determined to get their hands on the money (and they're prepared to take some pretty extreme measures to do so). The opening half-hour, during which the cash is uncovered, is laden with suspense; the direction is taut and the set design is eerily clever. The strange events that follow are amusing but certainly over-extended, straining credibility even in this outlandish genre, though the references to Hitchcock films consistently hit the mark, while de la Iglesia has a devilish sense of humor that pops up at the most unexpected moments. Carmen Maura is a standout in the lead, playing it straight in the midst of a building full of crazies, and clearly enjoying the wild antics; it's great to see that Almodóvar isn't the only Spanish director capable of creating a meaty role for an actress over 50, and a shame that American movies can't follow their lead.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States