Tag: juan jose ballesta


Spectre (2006)
★★★ / ★★★★

After living abroad for over forty years, Tomás (Jordi Dauder) decides to go back to his small Spanish village because someone has sent him a tarot card. The card, labeled los amantes, is an important symbol from his youth. Cut to sixteen-year-old Tomás (Juan José Ballesta) and his two friends (David Arnaiz, Adrián Marín) discussing a woman named Moira (Natalia Millán) while supposedly studying. Though new in the village, she has received a reputation of being a whore. Because of the hot weather, one of them suggests that the possibility of her naked is likely so they sneak up to her house to spy on her. Meanwhile, the adults have reason to believe that Moira is a bruja, a witch.

Though not particularly scary, “Regreso a Moira,” written by Mateo Gil and Igor Legarreta, is a beautifully made picture. It juggles the past and the present with rhythm; it is more concerned about telling a story that is rooted in the reality of its characters, posing questions, and answering them rather than delivering jolts. It does have some creepy moments involving ghosts but if the more obvious supernatural elements had been taken out completely, it would have preserved some of its mystique.

A specific time and place is created. Its approach in telling the story is intercutting older Tomás’ return with younger Tomás’ first time falling hard for a woman he barely knows. Since more than half of the film takes place in the past, we get used to images of open spaces: the dried grass of summer, the heat settling on one’s skin, and the wind providing temporary comfort. When it does cut to the present, the same place looks a lot smaller: the open field is replaced by modern buildings and the silence is taken over by sounds of vehicles and chattering of people passing by. But just like how it is in real life, though geography changes significantly, a few things remain unchanged.

I enjoyed the way young Tomás’ sexuality is treated. Eventually, an intense attraction grows between Tomás and Moira, but it is consistently tender and never perverse. The latter direction would have been so tempting because the woman is at least ten years older than the boy. Instead, the director helms the memory almost like a dream, thereby allowing a genuine sensuality to be felt and thought about. When Tomás touches Moira’s naked body, there is an innocence that is conveyed right down to his fingertips. We get the sense that the filmmakers know how it is like to love someone.

It does not quite work as a straight forward horror film. It is typical in that the ghost appears in places we might expect like in a hotel bathroom and in the backseat of the car. Because I felt what was coming, I was not shocked or horrified. I did feel a bit creeped out, however. As a mood piece, it works. The camera has an inclination toward lingering on certain images.

“Spectre,” directed by Mateo Gil, works because it is mostly rooted in drama. It deals with real emotions by employing the supernatural as a backdrop. If in-your-face ghost encounters had been taken out in place of a meaningful exploration of the community’s devotion to their religion, it might have made a stronger statement about what it means to be human and trying to find some sense in something that appears to be unexplainable or beyond understanding.

7 Virgins

7 Virgins
★★ / ★★★★

I have no idea why the movie was titled “7 Virgins” but I was relieved that it wasn’t about the sexual lives of the characters. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Juan José Ballesta was granted a two-day leave from a juvenile reform center because his brother was getting married. Upon his release, despite his immediate return to his old ways, he slowly realized the things that he was missing out on while he was in that center. Even though Ballesta’s character was hard around the edges and was prone to very questionable behavior and ways of thinking, by the end of the picture, I had this feeling that he did want to change even without the help of the facility. The implication about the power of internal locus of control was subtle enough so it wouldn’t sound preachy. I liked the friendship between Ballesta and Jesús Carroza because they understood each other to the point where they fight one minute and forget about the whole argument just as quickly. However, I wanted to know more about Ballesta’s relationship with his brother, grandmother and girlfriend. Perhaps I was lost in translation but I felt like there was something else underneath the seemingly benign conversations that they had. The film could’ve used less scenes involving the two friends being involved in petty crimes and more scenes exploring the depths of the characters and convincing the audiences why they should ultimately care for the teenagers. This Spanish film, directed by Alberto Rodríguez, had potential to be powerful but it didn’t have enough focus to get to the next level. Instead of revealing the many insights that the main characters were capable of, such elements were stifled. It shouldn’t be that way because the characters were on a journey toward a possible maturity. Growth should come hand-in-hand with one learning various ways to express himself, one of which is effective communication. Still, this was not a bad movie by any means. Even though I wanted to beat the lead character until I knocked some sense into him, I still cared what would happen to him because the film shows that he was capable of good in subtle ways but he wasn’t emotionally equipped to accept it.