Anita sees how the over three decades that she has been working at a cinema box office are literally devastated: the building is demolished to give way to a cinema complex, and she is forced into early retirement because she does not fit into the new company's image. Incapable of getting over the shock, and by inertia, she continues going back to the empty lot every day, where the cinema used to be and where a construction company is building the new complex.

 

A tender, entertaining and encouraging story of a survival.

VENTURA PONS

2000
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE

Anita sees how the over three decades that she has been working at a cinema box office are literally devastated: the building is demolished to give way to a cinema complex, and she is forced into early retirement because she does not fit into the new company's image. Incapable of getting over the shock, and by inertia, she continues going back to the empty lot every day, where the cinema used to be and where a construction company is building the new complex.

 

By mere chance, she ends up in love and involved with a man who drives a bulldozer at the construction site. A tender and bittersweet affair comes about, which is carried out in the dark, inside a trailer where the company has its offices. He is married and does not hide it. But, despite that, and thanks to their secret meetings, they are both able to open a door to hopes for the future. This is a relaationship without perspectives, but in Anita's case, at her early fifties, it helps her to mark a before and after in her life.

 

A tender, entertaining and encouraging story of a survival.

 
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE
VO/
 
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE

Comedia, también.

 

Los espectadores (y quizás yo mismo, de paso) habrán redescubierto, este invierno pasado, mi viejo placer por la comedia con Anita no perd el tren. ¡Ah, la comedia, vaya desafío!. La comedia, un género que tiene en todas partes más público que el drama, pero que no tiene su reconocimiento social. En cualquier pais hacer reír se considera un arte menor y, en cambio, vayas donde vayas, las lágrimas te dan un marchamo de calidad. Qué se le va a hacer.

 

Debo confesar que, a pesar de mi reconocida afición por formas narrativas libres y nada convencionales, siempre me han gustado los géneros y no me importa pasar de un drama a una comedia o a un documental mientras me fascine lo que explico. Lo importante es la pasión en tu narración y tu mirada en la misma. Creo que en las comedias, al margen de su dificultad conceptual, donde la narración debe construirse como una bomba de relojería, también debe de haber mucha pasión. A la vez, la propia naturaleza del género pueden convertirlas en maravillosas armas arrojadizas en manos de los directores… cuando tienen algo que contar. El público está muy acostumbrado a recibir sin rechistar batacazos contundentes en temas considerados socialmente intocables, serios, tabús.. mediante una buena comedia. El humor en sus diversas formas permite sólidos niveles de provocación dificilmente imaginables en el drama. Una buena constatación a tener en cuenta en cuanto te propones un tema. Drama o comedia?

 

A pesar del éxito artístico y también comercial de mi primer largometraje Ocaña, nadie me llamó para ofrecerme trabajo en el cine. Pensé que la gente del cine me veía como a un documentalista y que creían que no servía para hacer ficción. Ahí tuve muy claro que necesitaba hacer cambiar de tercio. Decidido a buscar todo lo contrario que me había motivado en Ocaña, en lugar de un documento iba a ser una ficción. En lugar de un solo personaje, una película coral. Si Ocaña era triste e intimista, ahora haría una comedia alegre y extrovertida. ¡Claro, una comedia! Había que dar la vuelta a todo, para demostrar en qué campos me podía mover y, también, porque me divertía cambiar. Si hay alguna cosa clara en mi carrera es que jamás me ha gustado repetirme, siempre he buscado la sorpresa, la novedad para mí mismo y para el espectador.

 

A partir de este planteamiento salió El Vicari d´Olot, una comedia aparentemente sencilla pero con mi placer, que ahora puede ser visto como algo naif pero que responde muy al espítiru de los primeros ochenta, por disparar una carga de profundidad, perversa para la época, respecto a la libertad sexual y a la defensa del derecho de otras opciones sexuales distintas a las establecidas, aceptadas, ordenadas, bendecidas... Un tema que siempre he llevado a cuestas y al que, quiérase o no, vuelvo a recurrir constantemente. Creo que uno de los méritos de esa película, que sigue siendo después de veinte años la que más público ha conseguido en las salas de cuantas he dirigido, es haber convertido, gracias al humor, un tema provocador en un éxito popular. Tanto que no únicamente la gente joven, sino incluso las tías marías, las beatonas catalanas, fueron a divertirse en masa con lo que erapecado. Hace mucho que no la he visto; tengo el recuerdo de una primera parte con mucho brío y de un final poco contundente. Pero de todas formas, en cuanto a maquiavélicas intenciones, pas mal.

 

Después de una película La rossa del bar, de corte melodramático, me propuse Puta Misèria!, una negra tragicomedia sobre perdedores, trasladada al lumpen de la periferia donde la ciudad pierde su nombre. Curiosamente, y ésta es una reflexión que he hecho con los años y con las películas que siguieron, hay una evidencia en mi trabajo como adaptador de textos literarios, sea novelas, libros de relatos, obras de teatro que me ha conducido, un poco en todas partes, a ser considerado, mencionado o reconocido como si fuera un buen guionista, cuando en realidad se trata simplemente de olfato. Olfato por el placer de encontrar buenas historias, olfato por la estructura narrativa cinematográfica. Yo me siento director, aunque muchas veces me reconozcan más los guiones. Con mis entrañables lumpen debió fallarme el olfato y tendría que haber entendido a tiempo que los perdedores, en nuestra sociedad tan competitiva, no son lo más atractivo para los espectadores. Son reglas del oficio que no acabo de entender, quizás por que me muevo por otras motivaciones.

 

Normalmente cuando un autor me interesa hago lo que llamo un stage, que consiste en leerme todo lo que encuentro de su obra. Como siempre, buscando historias. En Joan Barbero, joven y talentoso autor de teatro que no acabó de hallar su sitio en la escena de los primeros noventa, encontré una frescura y una espontaneidad que me sedujo enseguida para plantearme una nueva comedia. Què t´hi jugues, Mari Pili? nos quedó muy divertida, a pesar de que tiene un inicio algo dubitativo, pero enseguida arranca y se aguanta muy bien; es muy dinámica, muy ágil y el clímax final está muy bien resuelto. Yo estaba muy obsesionado con la idea de que no se nos escapara nada: las comedias deben ser endiabladamente precisas. Me gustó mucho volver a jugar, a jouer, a to play, volver a la comedia de costumbres, con unos personajes jóvenes, vivos, muy de la calle, inmersos en la duda sobre su despertar a la sexualidad, sobre la asunción de su rol.. Creo que fué ese desenfado, esa desinhibición lo que nos hizo ganar la confianza del público y la clave del enorme éxito que la película tuvo en Cataluña. De fuera, como se dió doblada, prefiero ni hablar. De todas formas es un tema felizmente superado.

 

Mari Pili nos dejó tan buen sabor de boca que en seguida nos pusimos a trabajar en otra película con Joan Barbero. Le pedí otra comedia coral de juventud, veraniega, un poco la misma temática... pero formalmente la introducción de elementos propios de la screwball creo que perjudicó el resultado final. El humor mediterráneo, si es que existe y yo creo que si, se basa más en la observación de los quehaceres de los personajes que en la exageración de sus actitudes y quizás nuestro fallo viniera por aquí… aunque no sé si estoy en lo cierto. Una de las constantes de mi trabajo es la coralidad. Son películas con muchos personajes, con muchos papeles y muy difíciles de hacer, pero que a mí me van. Aquesta nit o mai pasa durante el solsticio de verano, la noche de San Juan, la noche del año en que, según mi madrina, se encargan más niños. Una noche mágica en el Mediterráneo. El guión partía del encanto de esa noche, y mezclaba personajes de una obra teatral de Barbero, con unos duendes más o menos inspirados en El sueño de una noche de veranodel maestro de Stratford-upon-avon. La suma de muchos buenos elementos no da forzosamente un resultado mejor. Creo que cuanto más clara y sencilla sea la historia que cuentas en una comedia, más puedes concentrarte y mejor llegas al espectador. Pero me llevaría otra nueva película para aprender esta lección Rosita, please!.

 

Mi jefe de producción había rodado en Bulgaria y me explicó que allí había unos estudios impresionantes y posibilidades de conseguir algo distinto a los filmes urbanos en los que solía moverme. El exotismo me va, la aventura también y los que me conocen ya saben que soy bastante lanzado. No me lo pensé dos veces: le consulté a Barbero si se veía capaz de escribir un guión que pasara en Bulgaria, utilizando los escenarios y los recursos que me habían contado. Y Joan fue muy hábil. Su guión tenía una credibilidad geográfica admirable, pero con respecto a la historia, entre unas cosas y otras nos fuimos entusiasmando pero autoengañando a la vez. Era muy curioso, porque la misma complejidad nos empujaba hacia delante. Yo intuía que la historia no era bastante buena, que las situaciones eran demasido forzadas, poco coherentes, pero todo lo justificaba por la lógica de la screewball. ¡Vaya daño el dichoso empacho de screwball! De todas formas, para quien quiera verla, me parece que hay una media hora final espléndida, muy ingeniosa de guión y con un ritmo y unos actores fantásticos.

 

Rosita, please! es la película que quizás no habría tenido que hacer, pero a la vez es de la que más he aprendido, especialmente, desde el punto de vista narrativo. Es la más denostada por la gente, pero también por la que más he luchado. Quizás el error estuvo en forzar las cosas, en querer hacer una película que tiene que pasar en un lugar concreto, cuando lo importante es plantearte la historia. Y en Rosita falla la historia. Mea culpa: asumo mi responsabilidad. Cualquier película debe de contar con tres pies: historia, reparto y narrativa. Si falla alguno, todo se tambalea, no hay película. Pero me pudo más la fascinación de trabajar en un país que no tenía nada que ver con el nuestro donde todo, paisaje, gente, costumbres, lo encontraba muy exótico. Aquel rodaje fue un lujo que nunca más me voy a poder permitir.

 

Mientras empecé a dar vueltas a El perquè de tot plegat. No me sentía bien y quería cambiar. Creía que ya tenía suficiente oficio para hacer cosas personales donde me implicara más como director y que debía intentarlo. Repasé los novelistas que me atraían y me di cuenta de que siempre me había gustado muchísimo el mundo minimalista, irónico y onírico, siempre penetrante, de Quim Monzó. Estructurar, dar continuidad y tener un discurso coherente, desde el punto de vista cinematográfico utilizando diversos cuentos, no es fácil, pero a mí, precisamente, me gustan las cosas difíciles.

 

La gran mayoría de los relatos que escogí eran historias realistas sobre problemas de relaciones humanas: comunicación, amor, desamor, deseo, encanto, desencanto. Es decir,el tema de siempre de la pareja y de su realización, tema universal e inagotable. Había otros relatos, pocos, que estaban escritos en clave fantástica y que también me atraían, aunque el cine fantástico nunca ha sido mi fuerte. Empecé a analizarlos y me di cuenta de que dos de ellos representaban las dos caras de la misma moneda. Me gustó el significado de ambas historias: voluntad y duda, presentes en la vida, en la creación, en el amor, en el arte. Fantástico: empezaría con la voluntad y cerraría con la duda para expresar, subliminalmente, la situación en la que yo me hallaba. Estaba claro que me encontraba en un período de transición y que iba a hablar de éso en la película. El humor de Monzó me sirvió para reencontrarme conmigo mismo. Para mostrar mis anhelos y divagar sobre mis posibilidades como narrador. Me siento muy satisfecho de haber hecho esta película: si no fuera por mi voluntad y por mis dudas, no existiría y me complace mucho enseñarla.

 

Despues de la tetralogía que he tomado de Benet i Jornet y de Belbel, Actrius, Carícies,Amic/Amat y Morir (O No) con temas más trascendentes, más dramáticos, nuevamente he sentido la llamada de la comedia. Será porque en Baulenas encontré una buena historia, el tema de siempre, o porque tenía un reparto en el que creia ciegamente (mis muchos años de trabajo con la Sardà, principalmente) o porque me sentí fascinado por las posibilidades de hacer una simbiosis entre el tipo de humor basado en personajes que tan bien se nos da por estos lares con las posibilidades narrativas discontínuas y nada convencionales que me ofrecía el texto que iba a adaptar… Anita no perd el tren es la suma y el placer de todo ello, sumar al rigor del concepto de la puesta en escena y de la interpretación, la capacidad por comunicar la emoción y la ternura de unos personajes que, una vez más en mis películas, van a la busca de aquello que todos necesitamos. Seamos blancos o negros, altos o bajos, gordos o flacos: tocar y que nos toquen, amar y ser amados. El tema de siempre . Un poco de comunicación entre la vorágine de los tiempos que nos ha tocado vivir. All we need is love (and to laugh).

 

Ventura Pons

 

 

 
 
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE

CREW

 

DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER

VENTURA PONS

 

Screenplay based on "Bones Obres"

by LLUÍS-ANTON BAULENAS

VENTURA PONS

and

LLUÍS-ANTON BAULENAS

 

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION

AINTZA SERRA

 

MUSIC

CARLES CASES

 

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

MARIO MONTERO

 

EDITOR

PERE ABADAL

 

ART DIRECTOR

BEL.LO TORRAS

 

VESTUARI

MARÍA GIL

 

DIRECT SOUND

BORIS ZAPATA

 

CASTING

PEP ARMENGOL

 

A ELS FILMS DE LA RAMBLA, S.A. production

with the participation of

CANAL +, TELEVISIÓN ESPAÑOLA and TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA

 

ANITA TAKES A CHANCE
 
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE

Festivals:

Berlin, Hamburg & Koln (Germany)

Mar del Plata & Buenos Aires (Argentina)

London (UK)

Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, AC/Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Puerto Rico, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Rochester, Portland, Washington, Georgia & Tiburon (USA)

Toronto & Montréal (Canada)

Paris, Toulouse, Bastia, Nantes, Annecy, Foix & Montpellier (France)

Brussels (Belgium)

Sidney (Australia)

Troia & Oporto (Portugal)

Milano (Italy)

Moscow (Russia)

Oslo (Norway)

Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

La Habana (Cuba)

Santo Domingo (Rep. Dominicana)

Taipei (Taiwan)

Osaka (Japan)

Belgrade (Serbia)

Istanbul (Turkey)

Tel-Aviv, Haifa & Jerusalem (Israel)

Warsaw (Poland)

Santiago & Valdivia (Chile)

Montevideo (Uruguay)

Caracas (Venezuela)

Marrakech (Moroco)

Tunisia (Tunisia)

Bratislava (Slovakia)

Karlovy Vary (Check Republic)

Valladolid & San Sebastián (Spain)

Mexico D.F. (Mexico)

Quito (Ecuador)

Hannover & Frankfurt (Alemania)

Windhoek (Namibia)

Nueva Delhi (India)

Luanda (Angola)

Ginebra & Berna (Suiza)

El Cairo (Egipt)

Guatemala (Rep. Guatemala)

La Paz (Bolivia), San Francisco (EUA)

Burdeos (France)

Panama (Panama)

Lima (Perú)

Toronto (Canada)

Abidjan (Costa de Marfil)

Harare (Zimbaue)

Sarajevo (Bosnia)

Pekín (China)

Copenhague (Dinamarca)

Asuncion (Paraguay)

Libreville (Gabon)

Lisboa (Portugal

Budapest (Hungria)

Vilna (Lituania)

Instituto Cervantes (Argelia)

 

Awards:

Best Iberoamerican Film and Special Jury Mention: Rosa Maria Sardà (Mar del Plata Festival)

Best Film and Best Actress: Rosa Maria Sardà (Miami Film Festival)

Best Film, Best Actress: Rosa Maria Sardà, Best screenplay: Ventura Pons & Lluís-Anton Baulenas, Best music: Carles Cases (Peñíscola Film Festival)

Turia Awards: Best Film

Best Director: Ventura Pons (Tiburon Film Festival)

Nominations 2001 Goya Awards: Best Screenplay: Ventura Pons & Lluís-Anton Baulenas

 

 

 
ANITA TAKES A CHANCE

TAINTED LOVE
Gerard Dapena on Ventura Pons's cinema of fatal attractions


While Pedro Almodóvar's trademark blend of irreverent parody, high-strung melodrama, outrageous camp, and, of late, glossy production values, has come to symbolize the liberatory energies of democratic Spain, it can hardly be said to represent contemporary Spanish cinema as a whole. Indeed, Spanish cinema exhibits a range of tendencies as disparate and divergent as the country's varied geography and contentious sub-national identities.

Preeminent among the developments of post-Francoist cinema has been the resurgence of film production in Catalunya, a corollary of the region's restored political and cultural autonomy from the central government in Madrid. Ventura Pons, the author of an increasingly personal cinema, has emerged as one of Catalunya's most original and compelling directors. Although Pons has completed 13 features to date, his work is not widely available in the U.S., nor has it received the exposure it deserves. American audiences now have the opportunity of sampling three of Pons's best films. To Die (or Not) and What's It All About will be released on home video in a joint venture by Water Bearer Films and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which hosted a retrospective of Pons's work in December of 1999. Strand Releasing recently issued a third movie, Beloved/Friend, on video.

Born in Barcelona in 1945, Ventura Pons directed his first feature, Ocaña, An Intermittent Portrait (Ocaña, retrato intermitente), in 1977 after years of involvement in the theater. This impressionistic documentary portrait of a transvestite Andalusian painter garnered instant cult status after making the festival rounds. Made at a time of momentous social change and heightened expectations, as Spaniards acceded to political and sexual freedom in the wake of General Franco's death, Pons's debut, with its emphasis on performativity, cross-dressing, and camp, reads today as a suitable metaphor for Spain's new political and cultural landscape. Indeed, the long-awaited end to 40 years of dictatorship and the decline of the Catholic Church's sway over public morality constituted something of a seismic shift. As a world of infinite possibilities opened up, a concurrent urge to make up for lost time fueled an innovative and transgressive cinema. As did Almodóvar in his early films, Ocaña evinces an interest in gay and bohemian artistic life that, in the movie's historical context, figures as an alternative space and identity to the outdated, reactionary ways of Franco's society.

Subsequently, Pons has navigated the usual shoals of a filmmaker attempting to retain creative freedom and control within an increasingly commercialized film industry. In 1985 he set up his own production company, Els Films de la Rambla, and during the Nineties fashioned, as he describes it, an artisanal way of working that stands as a model of independence. A complex array of international financing, state subsidies, television advances, and grants from Catalunya's film commission has lately allowed Pons to produce one film per year, an impressive rate for any filmmaker.

Following a string of successful comedies in the Eighties and early Nineties, few of which broke new artistic ground, Pons hit his stride with a self-described "minimalist trilogy": What's It All About (El perquè de tot plegat, 94), Caresses (Caricies, 97), and To Die (or Not) (Morir (o No), 99). Along with Beloved/Friend (Amic/Amat, 98), these works represent Pons's mature style and, although they are indebted to literary sources - mostly plays and novels by contemporary Catalan writers - they form a thematically coherent body of work within a professional trajectory that has touched upon different genres and struck a variety of moods.

If Pons's cinema posits a worldview, it seems, at first glance, relentlessly depressing and hopeless. The films are steeped in the alienation of contemporary urban life, depicting worlds of isolation and dejection in claustrophobic interiors or desolate nightscapes, and proclaiming the elusiveness, perhaps even unattainability of love. This is especially true of Caresses, a bleak, La Ronde-like story that links ten episodes pervaded by a sense of estrangement and simmering rage. Pons's film runs the gamut of emotional anomie: from the boredom of a young middle-class couple that resorts to violence in lieu of communication to teenage drug addicts; from depressed and over-medicated middle-age women to disaffected gay and lesbian seniors. The constant nighttime setting does little to alleviate the mood of despair.

Although Pons's cinema resonates with echoes of Bergman and Fassbinder, it offers a very personal response to the malaise corroding a society poised, dazed and anxious, on the brink of the new millennium. Laced with barbed irony and exuding an existentialist pessimism, these films unleash an all-out assault on our most cherished beliefs about relationships and human solidarity. Throughout Caresses, characters strive to connect, yet end up orbiting in circles of non-meaning and incomprehension, humiliating and wounding lovers, parents, and siblings. Even the sex is joyless and fraught with issues of power and domination.

Beloved/Friend also revels in alienation and emotional atrophy, focusing on the thin line between affection and cruelty, desire and violence. A dying literature professor develops a crush on a handsome, callous student who moonlights as a male hustler. Smitten by the young man's arrogance and self-possession, the professor entrusts him Pons's recent work also displays a penchant for narrative experimentation and a fascination with the structural possibilities of storytelling. In Caresses, for instance, a character from each episode reappears in the following one, creating a degree of continuity, if not a coherent temporality, out of seemingly autonomous fragments. Generally speaking, Pons's plots are neither divided into neatly defined acts nor propelled by a causal, forward momentum. Instead, they experiment with unconventional non-linear forms, surrendering to the sheer possibilities and pleasures afforded by chance and play. In To Die (or Not) a screenwriter describes an idea for a new film to his wife, a story about second chances involving a young bike messenger who is struck by a speeding police car. As the screenwriter suffers a fatal heart attack, six more episodes follow, each of which ends with the death of its protagonist, before reversing all the way back to the beginning in order to grant each character a reprieve.

As well as investigating the possibilities of narrative, Pons's recent films evince an interest in visual experimentation. The first half of To Die (or Not) is shot in grainy, handheld black-and-white; the second, when the dead are offered a second chance, is rendered in color in a less fluid style. The episodic structures of the minimalist trilogy allow Pons to employ a range of approaches to mise-en-scène: sequences shot in tight, stationary close-ups alternate with ones constructed from long and medium shots and a moving camera; rapid cross-cutting with long takes. What's It All About in fact functions as a kind of compendium of Pons's technical virtuosity. The episode entitled "Faith" features two double circular long takes around a couple sitting on a couch, framed in long shot. The episodes "Submission" and "Desire" are each set up as static extended single shots of a woman in medium close-up delivering a monologue. "Competition" alternates between long shots and close-ups, and "Passion" is told almost entirely through voice-over narration.

Despite its pronounced formalism, Pons's cinema is primarily one of ideas and emotions, privileging the human face and the spoken word. In keeping with his films' somber outlook, language is often a weapon; it inflicts pain and obscures the truth rather than soothes and illuminates, and falters when characters most desperately need to communicate. The stylized delivery of minimalist, often trenchant exchanges lends these films a Pons's latest movie, Anita Takes a Chance (00), marks a return to his breezy comedies of the Eighties. Starring Pons favorite Rosa María Sardá, it tells a bittersweet tale about a middle-aged box-office clerk who returns to her job at a neighborhood movie theater after a short holiday only to find it has been torn down and turned into an enormous construction site. Aimless and depressed, Anita repeatedly returns to the site of her former job, and befriends the workers. Soon she finds herself carrying on a clandestine affair with a married hardhat and awakening to love for the first time.

Sardá's performance is both funny and touching, fleshing out Anita's alternately apathetic and obsessive behavior and her romantic awkwardness and sexual inexperience. Although it lacks the depth and bite of his other recent films, it exudes a tenderness and generosity of spirit towards its protagonists that they lack. Anita's lighthearted, slightly sentimental tone may help make it Pons's breakthrough film in America.

Restless and daring, Ventura Pons continues to blaze new trails for Spanish cinema. His inventive and thoughtful work has materialized at a time when the Spanish film industry finds itself at a crossroads in both economic and artistic terms. The question is whether to adopt Hollywood's filmmaking templates and cultivate a popular and commercial cinema, or to continue subsidizing personal, auteur-driven work that raises complex issues and questions audience expectations, yet falters at the box office. Pons's recent films thankfully avoid the levity, derivativeness, and superficial charm of Spanish cinema's seemingly youth-obsessed output. Rather than replicate clichés, Pons has not been afraid to gamble on an intelligent and challenging cinema that probes into the hidden compulsions and fears that rule our desires and feelings.

His unflinching view of humanity may appear short on warmth and optimism, and his spare, cerebral approach may exemplify to some the excessive stylization and fondness for mystification that is often attributed to European art cinema. Yet a film like What's It All About, arguably the trilogy's most enjoyable work, embodies Pons's vision at its most poignant and unaffected: a lucid view of the absurdity of human folly and the pitfalls of erotic compulsions rendered with equal measures of irony, candor, and compassion.

Gerard Dapena

Lincoln Center

A GREAT ROSA MARIA SARDÀ

 

The complicity between Ventura Pons and the Catalan actress is demonstrated in a stunning comedy. They began working together over thirty years ago, and it shows. Ventura Pons, director (of theatre and now also of cinema) and Rosa Maria Sardà know each other perfectly. He gave her her first opportunity on the big screen in the exhuberant El Vicari d'Olot (The Vicary of Olot) and after dramatic works of the mettle of Actrius (Actresses) or Amic/Amat (Beloved/Friend) they are making their return to comedy. And the result is one of those landmark hits in the career of these two professionals.Beyond any weaknesses and strengths, this adaptation of Lluís-Anton Baulenas´ work Bones Obres, will be remembered forever for the complicity between Pons and Sardá... and for the regal lesson the actress gives in a generous interpretation with no effort spared. Because this film, which recounts the (penultimate?) chance for a frustrated actress, who has become a cinema ticket seller (Sardà), to catch a metaphorical train, one of love, driven by a muscle-bound, hairy construction worker (José Coronado), and the difficult conditions which are imposed by this relationship (he is married, they see each other during fleeting moments and being in her fifties is proving difficult for her), will always be Sardà and her amazing sense of position in front of the camera.It is not only what the great actress says, or what her character evokes, or what her plan for survival provokes in the spectator (the portrayal, here, always finely balanced between laughter and drama which is supressed by her complicit smile, is of utmost importance). The fact is that just by being, by moving, by placing one foot timidly in the street while she looks both ways to see if a car is coming; by showing a long wait in front of a laid table, it is here where it is just the actress on her own that Sardà demonstrates the true level of her art, of the years that she has been showing us that she can play anybody, as always with her adorable air of a respectability bombarded by life. Of course, there is more: delicious cinematographic parodies (that of Sardà emulating Garbo in Queen Christina is delightful), a plot which sustains itself well although we could perhaps have asked for a slight touch more of madness. And the intelligence of a director who understands when one creative cycle ends and another begins....What more can one ask for?

M. Torreiro

El País

ANITA TAKES A CHANCE, LOVE ON A CONSTRUCTION SITE

 

Within the Spanish panorama the cinema of Ventura Pons stands out for two reasons. Since some years ago he has systematically, based his work on contemporary Catalan writers, which comes to the screen with a formal freshness which contradicts the deserved ill-fame of literary adaption. It is due to this that I have spoken, only half in jest, of a "Pons Plan", in its way as tenacious as that instigated by Gonzalo Suárez decades ago. In second place, his casts are loaded with excellent actors who have emerged from the Catalan scene, who also provide a breath of fresh air in our limited star system. In Pons´s recent films we have been able to see Anna Lizarán, Sergi López, or Mercè Pons as well as re-discovering the prestigious Josep M. Pou and Rosa M. Sardà. Anita takes a Chance, based on a novel by Lluís-Anton Baulenas, who collaborated on the script with Pons is perhaps the film-maker´s simplest, most direct and charming film. This is aided by Sardà´s excellent creation of the eponymous Anita, a woman in her fifties who is given the gift of a love affair, with no platonic undertones with a construction worker (José Coronado, another revelation in the hands of Pons) who becomes her special excavator man and who stirs up her insides and feelings which she thought she had forgotten.Sardà shows her poweress of the screen in this portrait of the entertaining but never sentimental Anita: one only has to see her exchanging confidences with her neighbour María Barranco (delightful) or making fleeting asides to the camera which quickly win our sympathy. Pons used her to great advantage in Actrius (Actresses) or Amic/Amat (Beloved/Friend) and deserves to have her all to himself in this her first great leading role. As Anita works in the box-office, the film, through her, allows a light retrospective of the evolution of the cinema, where she was working (and of film exhibition in general), which progresses from being a porn cinema, to being an art house and then to becoming a multi-screen complex. However Pons does not wish to talk about cinema but rather about its characters. He has made a "positive" film, which as he himself likes to say, may bring him the commercial success which has been evading him for some time.

Antonio Weinrichter

La Vanguardia

LIVELY BOX OFFICE CLERK

 

Few characters allow an actress to show the full range of her talents to the same extent as the role interpreted by Rosa María Sardà in the latest Ventura Pons film, a director with whom she has maintained a long relationship on screen and on the stage and who recently has given her the opportunity to show off her dramatic side in titles such as Actresses, Caresses and Friend/Beloved. The actress and the filmmaker join forces to bring to life an adaption of a novel by Lluís-Antón Baulenas and to recount, with a comedy tone, an unusal portrait of a mature woman, at the critical age of 50. A box office clerk whose cinema is shut down and who experiences one of the biggest adventures of her life. Laughter reveals the pathetic nuances of this confused but lively woman to whom Sardà brings dimension and makes familiar in an abundance of wisdom and intuition, making a difficult task appear easy, dazzling in the moments that she faces the camera on her own,whether being, thinking or talking directly to the spectator- and generous in the shared scenes, in which she extends her brilliance to the other members of the cast, to Barranco who contributes charm and loquacity and especially to Coronado, who undertakes a magnificent excercise in restraint in the credible portrayal of an enigmatic construction worker, a convincing Prince Charming astride an excavator. The actress reflects the film and it is difficult to imagine it without her, but it is certain, logically, that a large part of the merit is due to Ventura Pons, a director who is going through an exceptionally inspired and prolific moment, who is finding his themes in the originality and and the imagination of new Catalan literature. He shelters behind the solvency of his actors to take surprising narrative liberties, unusual or little frequent in Spanish cinema, playing with time, burning out tones on purpose, slipping in excentric dreams in comic strip form and reflecting an extremely personal view of cinema through the charming and delightful character of the box office clerk, downtrodden by life, given to him by Sardà.

Alberto Bermejo

El Mundo

"ANITA NO PIERDE EL TREN", AMOR A PIE DE OBRA.

 

Dentro del panorama español, el cine de Ventura Pons se distingue al menos por dos cosas. Desde haces unos años parte sistemáticamente (por eso he hablado, sólo medio en broma, de un "plan Pons", a su manera tan férreo como el que acometiera hace décadas Gonzalo Suárez) de obras de escritores catalanes actuales, que lleva a la pantalla con una frescura formal que desmiente la merecida mala fama del género de la adaptación literaria. En segundo lugar, arma sus repartos con excelentes actores salidos de la escena catalana que suponen un soplo de frescura, también, en nuestro limitado star-system: en estas últimas películas de Pons hemos podido ver a Anna Lizarán, Sergi López o Mercé Pons y redescubrir a los insignes Josep M. Pou y Rosa M. Sardà. "Anita no pierde el tren", basada en una obra de Lluís-Anton Baulenas, que ha colaborado en el guión con el propio Pons, es quizá la película más sencilla, lineal y simpática del cineasta. A ello ayuda la excelente creación que hace Sardà de la Anita titular, una mujer cincuentona que recibe el regalo de una relación amorosa nada platónica con un obrero de la construcción (José Coronado, otra revelación en manos de Pons) que se convierte en su particular excavator man y le remueve las entrañas y los sentimientos que creía olvidados.

 

Sardà muestra su dominio de la pantalla en su retrato de la entrañable pero nada sentimental Anita: no hay más que verla intercambiando confidencias con su vecina María Barranco (deliciosa) o haciendo fugaces apartes a cámara que se ganan rápidamente nuestra complicidad. Pons la había utilizado magistralmente en "Actrices" o "Amigo/amado" y se merecía tenerla toda para él en éste su primer gran papel protagonista. Como Anita es taquillera, la película se permite a través suyo un leve apunte risueño de la evolución del cine en el que trabaja (y de la exhibición en general), que pasa de local porno a sala de arte y ensayo y luego a multisala. Pero Pons no quiere hablar de cine sino de sus personajes. Ha hecho una película "positiva", como a él mismo le gusta decir, que puede reportarle ese éxito comercial qeu le viene esquivando desde hace tiempo.

Anotnio Weinrichter

ABC

Ventura Pons consolidates his reputation as Catalonia's flagship helmer with the small, well-made "Anita takes a chance", an agreeable if uncommonly mainstream item, given his recent flirtations with thematic and formal risk. Though unoriginal in showing how a love of the movies can be both a help and a hindrance in real life, this wry, elegantly crafted comedy about the powers of imagination and optimism in overcoming solitude also has a darker and more challenging side, which only intermittently emerges as winsome thesp Rosa Maria Sardà displays her striking talent for comedy. Apart from inevitable fest runs, the accessible "Anita" may take a chance in new territories, beyond Pons-friendly countries like France.

Fifty-year-old widow Anita (the vivacious Sardà) has worked for 34 years in the ticket booth of a neighborhood cinema: She reckons she's seen 2.424 movies. When her boss, Lleyva (Jordi Dauder), gives her extra pay and two weeks off, she is rightly suspicious. When she comes back she finds the cinema demolished to make way for a multiplex. She's out of a job.

The depressed Anita-who devours cockles to combat misery- nostalgically starts visiting the construction site.

Strong, silent type Antonio (Jose Coronado) falls for Anita. "The man with the digger", she proclaims, "has just entered my life". He tell her he's married, but this does not stop Anita from taking her chance and meeting him for some latenight romance in the workman's hut. They have nothing in common, which makes conversations redundant. Their silent but highly charged meetings are an effective combination of comedy and intensity.

Pic's strongest moments are when it moves into more daring terrain, such as bleached-out flashbacks of Anita as a star-struck child, a beautifully rendered animated dream sequence and most stikingly, an all-too-brief digital re-creation of a secene from "Queen Christina", featuring Sardà as Garbo. Such stylistic daring, typical of Pons' recent output, is otherwise lacking, and highlights a flatness of tone in the main narrative.

The dependable Sardà, featured in Oscar-winning "All About My Mother" as Penelope Cruz's mother, has worked repeatedly with Pons, and it shows in her alertness to every nuance of the script. But although, she is totally at ease with the film's comedy, Sardà slightly exaggerates Anita's suffering.

Coronado, who learned Catalan for the role, has little to do other than brood, but he broods well. Minor characters are deftly drawn and played by a range of Catalan thesps, particularly Albert Forner as the perpetually grinning building site foreman.

Carles Cases' perky, neo-baroque orchestral score is in keeping with the project's sense of tight control.

Jonathan Holland

VARIETY

This exceptional film confirms, using the alibi of Comedy and a humour submerged in irony, not only the outstanding coherence which we have not tired of in the latest Ventura Pons films but also the splendid form in which this filmmaker, prepared to explore the human soul through the sincerity of a film language as free as it is suggestive, metaphorically using the energy of that excavator which pratically stars in the story. Like his most recent films, this film is based on a literary text - in this occasion by Luis Anton Baulenas who also colaborated on the script -, Anita takes a chance (Anita no perd el tren) brings us close to an everyday tragedy. The film contains echoes of certain proposals in cinema by Woody Allen or the self-same Aki Kaurismaki, through precisely a negation of naturalism, in an exercise in style which plays with total liberty and mathematical precision with the passing of time, the complicit asides to camera, the cinematographic references - as explicit as the recreation of Queen Christina with a fabulous imitation of Garbo and Gilbert - or the illustrations of dreams and nightmares, in which the cartoon is used as a recourse. As if a logical consequence of the reflections on reality in Morir (o no), but without the need to resort to differenciating between black and white and colour, Ventura Pons´s film manifests the conflict between two realities which are at the same time opposing yet complementary: on the one hand the lived, the everyday, the material and on the other the desired and imagined. The linking of metaphors, the construction site and the powerful excavator become the screen - which we never see - the neighbourhood cinema through which all the dreams parade : the fishmongers´ little girl who wanted to be a new Marisol and who, when a teenager, believed it was possible to find a husband designed along the lines of the dialogues spoken by the Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart in the dubbed versions, impossible to anticipate the obscure husband or the potential Galician lover who took off running one day and still continues his escape. Facing this imaginary world, thanks to the sane complicity of her neighbour, a Maria Barranco as superb as Rosa María Sardà, José Coronado and the rest of the cast- Anita plants her feet firmly on the ground in both the figurative sense and in the other (the fall into the pit and her rescue by the claw of the excavator, "King Kong´s hand"). She experiences a love affair or sex, perhaps both. In its sordidness (quick and clandestine meetings in the construction site´s hut - possibly the least romantic place in the world),she finds authenticity and what is her latest feeling: Life, although it might be hell, is always better than fiction. And to underline this, nothing better than the fact that the film, through the star´s working conditions as box office ticket clerk presents us with a succulent journey through the evolution of a neighbourhood cinema which changed from showing double bills from the dream factory, to the pseudo-erotic cinema of the Transition period, to art and rehearsal and the latest releases and ending up being knocked down and replaced by a multi-complex under the rule of popcorn and clonic behaviour (the twins).

Antoni Llorens

Cartelera Turia

The American Cinematheque's Recent Spanish Cinema, highlighted by a Ventura Pons retrospective, opens at the Egyptian with the Catalan director's latest film, the enchanting comedy "Anita takes a chance", which continues his collaboration with the marvellous Rosa Maria Sardà. The elegant, blond Sardà plays a box-office cashier who, on the eve of her 50th birthday learns that the Barcelona movie theater where he has contentedly worked for 34 years will be bulldozed and replaced by a multiplex. She is sent packing with a measly half month's pay because she is deemed too old for the nex complex's image.

 

Too stunned to fight back and unable to stay away from the site of the old theater, she soon finds herself taken with the construction crew's bulldozer operator, Antoni (José Coronado); to her astonishment and delight, he in turn is taken with her.

 

The film proceeds with an unpretentious, jaunty gallantry and humor, yet it ends on a note of unyielding realism that allows Anita to emerge as a true heroine.

Kevin Thomas

LOS ANGELES TIMES

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