When psychiatrist Enrique (Eduard Fernández, "The Galindez File," "Che: Part Two") lands in Madrid, he calls his sister (Marta Belaustegui, "Nicotina"), who does not answer because she is making love to a married man, and the friend who has invited him, a neurosurgeon (Carlos Hipólito, "Goya in Bordeaux") who does not answer because he is with the Hungarian woman who has him enraptured. Ironic, because Enrique is back in his home town to give a series of lectures on what he believes is a mental impairment, the phenomenon of "Amores Locos" (Mad Love).
This is the type of film one can easily imagine Hollywood making a mess of, but writer/director Beda Docampo Feijóo (writer) has crafted a romantic comedy that's not entirely comedic with a central romance never realized, but hinted at in the film's final minute. Feijóo's story, beautifully realized and constructed by screenwriter Cesar Gomez Copello, is full of parallels, ironies and art and cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz ("Savage Grace") can recreate the lighting of a Flemish painting so deftly, his real life actors become unreal.
Enrique visits the Prado in order to study Hieronymus Bosch's "The Extraction of the Stone of Madness," a painting whose image will be central to his talks. In the Flemish room, he asks museum guide Julia (Irene Visedo, "The Devil's Backbone") where to find it. As he walks away she faints. We see what she has seen - a Vermeer-like painting in the distance and later, after finding out where he lives and having enlargements made, Julia persuades Enrique to listen to her explanation in a cafe. The young woman playing a virginal in the paining, whose back we see, has a mole on her shoulder where Julia does, and the music teacher who is touching her shoulder not only looks like Enrique, but clasps his hand behind his back just as Enrique had while studying the Bosch. With her background in art, Julia analyzes the meaning of the painting while Enrique the psychiatrist begins to analyze her.
Love and all the impulsive behavior it inspires is examined here, sometimes with humor, sometimes with deep melancholy. It is funny that Enrique's counterpart - the neurosurgeon who is the body to Enrique's mind - is obsessed with a call girl whom he pays for company and that illusion of love is shattered in an interesting way. Enrique's estranged wife (Cuca Escribano) tries every which way to win him back, but the pragmatist who declares perfect love does not exist cannot get past the one indiscretion that made him walk away. Julia's obsession with Enrique grows stronger as Enrique's theory that the painting is tied to the loss of her parents years earlier does and yet the two do not necessarily prove exclusive. Another irony is that Julia herself has an unrequited lover, a painter whose admiration for her is never noticed.
The wonderful ensemble cast also features "All About My Mother's" Marisa Paredes as Julia's paternal grandmother.
"Amores Locos" isn't an easy film to pinpoint - it's funny, dramatic, erotic and poignant. It is a time-traveling equivalent to "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" with crisscrossing subplots. B
Robin gives "Amores Locos" a B+.
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