EL VIRUS DE LA POR, VENTURA PONS

 

The city, restless, at night. A chain of eleven stories complete a circle, linked by characters with different relationships: couples, mother-daughter, friends, brother-sisters, young-old people, father-son, lovers, father-daughter, mother-son, who cannot manage to communicate through love, to caress. It is set in the present, at the end of this millennium.

VENTURA PONS

1997
CARESSES
CARESSES

The city, restless, at night. A chain of eleven stories complete a circle, linked by characters with different relationships: couples, mother-daughter, friends, brother-sisters, young-old people, father-son, lovers, father-daughter, mother-son, who cannot manage to communicate through love, to caress. It is set in the present, at the end of this millennium.

 

These are naked moments in which human beings show their most intense emotions, as well as their basest instincts, love/hate, but also love in its many forms. Despite proximity, people can be total strangers. They can talk without listening, listen without feeling and act without thinking. But there can also be a spark of hope, of communication, a few caresses.

EL VIRUS DE LA POR  VENTURA PONS
EL VIRUS DE LA POR  VENTURA PONS
 
CARESSES
VO/

MAKING OF (ENG. SUBT.)

 
CARESSES

LA MIRADA LIBRE

Extracte del llibre d’Anabel Campo Vidal

 

De hecho, la obra que había leído y que me apetecía adaptar al cine era “Morir (Un instante antes de morir)” de Sergi Belbel. Llevaba años escrita y seguía inédita en los escenarios: Belbel todavía no había conseguido su estreno. Y ésa era una espina que tenía clavada. Se la propuse, y me pidió tiempo para reflexionar su respuesta.

 

Cuando me enfrento al mundo de un autor nuevo para mí, acostumbro a leer todo lo que puedo de él. Y así, volví a leer Carícies. El recuerdo del montaje teatral no correspondía al impacto y emoción que destilaban los personajes en su lectura. Belbel me contó que estuvo a punto de dejar la profesión por el palo que le pegó la crítica en su estreno. Afortunadamente, no fue así: habríamos perdido a uno de los autores más destacados y representados del teatro contemporáneo europeo. La lectura de Carícies me sugirió nuevas posibilidades narrativas cinematográficas. Y me enganchó: me estimuló porque intuía un material atrevido temáticamente y riquísimo desde un punto de vista conceptual, que me permitía un juego narrativo fantástico. Atracción fatal: un nuevo encuentro con el minimalismo y una película narrativamente diferente. Belbel me iba mucho.

 

Sergi me llamó y me dijo que me concedía los derechos de “Morir”, yo me había enamorado de Carícies y le contesté que prefería hacerla primero, y más adelante, si acaso, “Morir”. Carícies describe una ronda moderna, discontinua en el tiempo, inspirada en la estructura de la famosa pieza del vienés Arthur Schnitzler. Con Belbel tuve una conversación muy corta que me confirmó las claves de adaptación que yo intuía. Le pregunté hacia dónde viajaba la chica de la estación y me aclaró la total urbanidad de la acción y a la vez su discontinuidad. Muchos de los encuentros podían avanzar o retroceder en el tiempo, no tenían forzosamente que ser correlativos, e incluso la última escena pasaba paralelamente a la del inicio. Fantástico: una historia sobre la ciudad y el tiempo. Pensé que debía potenciar la idea de que la ronda no fuera continua para dar la sensación del juego del tiempo, pero de manera muy cuidadosa para no confundir al espectador. Utilizaría la discontinuidad sólo una vez, la que corresponde al arranque/final de la historia. Para subrayarla me serví del reloj de la plaza Catalunya haciendo girar sus manecillas en sentido inverso. Un simple truco de laboratorio que, narrativamente, es de lo más identificativo que se puede proponer.

 

El resultado es muy atractivo: normalmente una pieza se compone de tres actos, presentación, nudo y desenlace. Y en Carícies el desenlace está implícito en la presentación. La discontinuidad, la manipulación del tiempo, me parecían diáfanas. Me fascinaba. Lo único que quedaba era: ¿cómo ligar todo eso? Y se me ocurrió una segunda opción. La cámara agitada, nerviosa, desasosegada, inquieta, llega a la ciudad en busca de personajes. Cuando los halla, interiormente no se encuentran a ellos mismos (porque a pesar de ser muy próximos están pasando un mal momento y son incapaces de expresar la mínima comunicación afectiva), la cámara sigue rastreando vertiginosamente la ciudad en busca de otros y otros, todos sin posibilidad de entrega. Al final, al encontrar la cámara a dos seres capaces de acariciarse, de darse amor (dos desconocidos que no tienen nada en común excepto que son vecinos de escalera: la madre del chapero y el joven de la paliza), el juego narrativo se invierte. La cámara se serena y sale despacio por el balcón a contemplar la calle de forma relajada y tranquila porque, por fin, ha encontrado lo que buscaba: caricias.

 

Es una película sobre personajes muy próximos que no se entienden y que son incapaces de darse afecto. La dificultad de comunicarse y de darse amor en las grandes ciudades occidentales en los años del cambio de milenio. Son personajes del asfalto ciudadano que nunca podrían vivir en el campo, donde la mentalidad y las relaciones son muy distintas. Hay todo tipo de parejas: hombre-mujer, hombre-hombre, madre-hija, madre-hijo, padre-hijo, padre-hija, hermano-hermana, mujer-mujer y todo tipo de relaciones: homosexuales, heterosexuales... Habla en negativo de aquello que es absolutamente positivo: el amor. Y la paradoja es que la caricia sólo son capaces de dársela dos extraños. En ese momento se cierra la película con una cantata maravillosa de Maria del Mar Bonet: Jo em donaria a qui em volgués (Yo me daría a quien me quisiera). Un poema de Palau i Fabre. Una maravilla que me iba muy bien para terminar la historia.

 

Otra vez, interpretaciones memorables. Un lujazo trabajar con ellos, desde los que debutaban –Naïm Thomas y Roger Coma– hasta los veteranos –la Sardà, Montserrat Salvador, Julieta Serrano, Agustín González, Jordi Dauder–, pasando por los middle-aged: Mercè Pons, Laura Conejero, David Selvas y Sergi López. Cada vez me siento más compenetrado con los actores, cada vez me gusta más ensayar y buscar con ellos los personajes, cada vez me pego más a la cámara durante el rodaje como si quisiera meterme en el interior de esos seres que creamos.

 

Ésta es la película que realmente me ha abierto las puertas del extranjero. Fue seleccionada para Panorama, la prestigiosa sección oficial no competitiva del Festival de Berlín. A partir de entonces mis cuatro siguientes películas han sido igualmente elegidas por el Panorama berlinés. Me cuentan que soy el único director al que han seleccionado cinco años consecutivos en los mucchos años de vida del Festival. Y a partir de la Berlinale se me abren las puertas de los grandes festivales: Montreal, Toronto, Los Ángeles, Seattle, Turín, Salónica, La Habana... Luego se estrena en Londres con un éxito brutal, por lo que deciden organizar una retrospectiva en el ICA (el Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo). A continuación siguen los estrenos en las salas de Francia, Canadá y Venezuela y la salida en vídeo en Estados Unidos.

 

Cuando en la vida te ha hecho mucha ilusión dedicarte a una cosa, como es mi caso, cuando de pequeño lo que querías era hacer una película y te das cuenta de que ya llevas muchas y de que tienes un reconocimiento, un prestigio en el circuito de los grandes festivales, los que de verdad cuentan, sientes una satisfacción que no tiene precio.

 

Ventura Pons

 

 

 
CARESSES

 

DIRECCIÓ I PRODUCCIÓ

VENTURA PONS

 

GUIÓ

SERGI BELBEL I VENTURA PONS

 

basat en el text de

Sergi Belbel

 

CAP DE PRODUCCIÓ

XAVIER BASTÉ

 

MÚSICA

CARLES CASES

 

FOTOGRAFIA

JESUS ESCOSA

 

MUNTATGE

PERE ABADAL

 

ART DIRECTOR

GLORIA MARTÍ

 

SO

BORIS S. ZAPATA

 

Una producció de Els Films de la Rambla, S.A. amb la participació de Televisión Española, S.A. i Televisió de Catalunya, S.A.

 

 

 
CARESSES
HOME JOVE
DAVID SELVAS
DONA JOVE
LAURA CONEJERO
DONA GRAN
JULIETA SERRANO
DONA VELLA
MONTSERRAT SALVADOR
HOME VELL
AGUSTÍN GONZÁLEZ
NEN
NAÏM THOMAS
HOME
SERGI LÓPEZ
NOIA
MERCÈ PONS
HOME GRAN
JORDI DAUDER
NOI
ROGER COMA
DONA ROSA
MARIA SARDÀ
 
 
 
 
CARESSES

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich & Koln (Germany)

Torino & Firenze (Italy)

Seattle, Washington, Puerto Rico, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Connecticut, Filadelfia, Cleveland, AC/Los Angeles & LC/New York (USA)

Brussels (Belgium)

Montréal & Toronto (Canada)

Bogotá & Medellín (Colombia)

Montpellier, Dijon, Burdeos, Paris, Annecy, Foix & Toulouse (France)

Ljubijana (Slovenia)

Thessaloniki (Greece)

La Habana (Cuba)

Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

Buenos Aires (Argentina)

London (UK)

Belgrade (Serbia)

Lisboa (Portugal)

Sao Paulo (Brazil)

Istanbul (Turkey)

Tel-Aviv, Haifa & Jerusalem (Israel)

Warsaw (Poland)

Caracas (Venezuela)

Santiago & Valdivia (Chile)

Montevideo (Uruguay)

Santo Domingo (Rep. Dominicana)

Dublin & Cork (Ireland)

Huesca, Valladolid & San Sebastián (Spain)

Mexico D.F. & Monterrey (Mexico)

Bogotà (Colombia)

Halifax ( Canada)

La Cinémathèque québécoise of Montreal (Canada)

Festival de Quito (Ecuador)​

 

Awards:

Ventura Pons: Best Director (Turia).

Mercè Pons: Best Actress (Ojo Crítico RNE)

 

 

 

 

 
CARESSES

 

ABOUT THE "CARESSES" OF VENTURA PONS

In 1994, Ventura Pons proposed to the cinema-going public a kaleidoscopic x-ray of peculiar urban behaviours in the format of a film of sketches which, under the title What it's all about, adapted with extreme efficiency a collection of stories by Quim Monzó, one of the most representative names in contemporary Catalan narrative. Two years later Pons offered, with Actresses, a minimalist suite of conversations between women of the theatre (as they recall a bitter power struggle for stardom), based on a dramatic work by another key figure in Catalonian literary creation, Josep Maria Benet i Jornet. Now, with Caresses, a minimalist circuit of abrupt meetings between displaced city dwellers, Ventura Pons continues his perspicacious tracking of the best models of contemporary Catalan fiction, with the adaptation of a splendid work by dramatist Sergi Belbel.

This systematic quest for a solid, Catalan filmic imaginarium is not new in Pons' filmography. Quite to the contrary, his cinematographic work has always grown out of a productive encounter with other Catalan fiction-makers -novelists, short-story writers, playwrights-, with their everyday settings -most particularly the city of Barcelona, already the neuralgic backdrop for that essential documentary chronicle of the transition which was, in 1978, Pons' opera prima Ocaña, retrat intermitent-, and with human typologies firmly set down in the extraordinary advantage Pons has been able to extract, film after film, from a careful selection of actors. Drawing on all these elements, Pons has developed a coherent filmographic collection, with a capacity to echo the concerns of our most close and quotidian surroundings, but with a notable stylistic evolution which has crystalised in the powerful expressive minimalism of his more recent films.

The latest and most notable step in the consolidation of this style is Caresses, a surprising film which links eleven crushing encounters, tête à tête, between a series of characters infected with a strange virus of bad-tempered loneliness which they appear to pass from one to the next as they move through the city. In fact, the work by Sergi Belbel on which the film is based could be considered at the same time a subterranean remake of La ronde by playwright Arthur Schnitzler, but one which has substituted the Austrian author's mechanical sexual exchange for the simple enmity passed from one character to the next at each new meeting.

With Caresses, an ironical title alluding to the absence of tenderness, an intangible grail the protagonists all persist in seeking in the deep pits of dispassion, Ventura Pons manages to make these figures full of self-destructive cruelty seem irresistably tender in the eyes of the spectator. The merit lies as much in the imcomparable work the director has extracted once again from his actors, as in the dramatic temperature reached in the claustrophobic conception of the episodes. Cornered in tiny settings (a kitchen, a bathroom, a studio flat, a doorway...), and subject to extreme situations in their naked harshness (blows, insults, reproaches or sterile sexual skirmishes), the protagonists of Caresses find in this iron-hard minimalism the perfect conditions to reveal the human authenticity of their inner desperation. With enormous respect for gesture, for words or simply for silence, Ventura Pons has pieced together the chronicle of an incestuous contagion of disatisfactions amongst members of this big family which is the big city: a city encarnated in the strangely hostile streets of a nocturnal present-day Barcelona, which serves Pons as the scenographic backdrop to bravely bring to light the most turbid and silent zones of our collective imaginarium, and to convert them into the material of poignant and universally relevant fiction.

Núria Bou & Xavier Pérez

CARESSES

The script skillfully portrays whole lives with minimalist touches, and it's good to see a helmer questioning cinematic cliches about love.

Night in a big city. Eleven scenes of confrontation between couples illustrate the links in a chain of erotic violence.
In an apartment, a young man and young woman trade vicious blows as they discuss domestic trivia. In a deserted park, the young woman meets her elderly mother, who is thinking of moving into a home. In the home, the mother dances and kisses with an old woman, who no longer remembers the affair the two once had. The old woman seeks out an old man (her brother), who has lived on the street since she stole his wife from him long ago. The old man is assaulted by a kid, who recounts his wild escapades.

The kid returns home and invites his father to join him in the bath, comparing penis sizes when he gets in. In a crowded railway station, the father breaks up with a girl, brutally denouncing the foul smell of her vagina. The girl angrily watches an elderly man as he prepares dinner in his flat. The elderly man visits the studio flat of a boy, a male prostitute, bringing him the gift of a mirror in front of which he is fellated.

Time now runs backwards to the moment when the film began. The boy overhears the argument between the young man and young woman as he visits his mother in the flat below. He leaves after giving her money. The young man knocks at the woman's door, asking to borrow cooking oil. Tenderly she caresses his battered and bleeding face.

Previously little known outside Catalunya, Ventura Pons has made ten features, eight of them produced by his own company, Els Films de la Rambla, named after Barcelona's best-loved thoroughfare. After his first film Ocaña, retrat intermitent/Ocaña, an Intermittent Portrait (1978), a cult documentary on the drag queen who was a key figure in the Spanish Transition to democracy, Pons specialised in what he calls "lumpen comedies", Catalan Carry Ons lampooning randy vicars and corrupt businessmen. Yet he began as a stage director and his recent films have returned to theatrical and literary sources. The episodic format of Carícies picks up on his recent El perquè de tot plegat/What It's All About, which was based on 15 short stories by well-known author Quim Monzó; and its self-conscious performance style is reminiscent of Actrius/Actresses in which three theatrical divas replay All about Eve.

Like these last two films, Carícies derives from a literary source, in this case Sergi Belbel's widely produced play. The frequent scene changes, linked by inserts of traffic speeding through the metropolis, loosen up the dramatic space but still preserve its claustrophobic locations: bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen. The credit sequence, with its city lights set to a sultry saxophone score, might seem predictable.

But the narrative and camerawork consistently challenge audience expectations. In the opening sequence, the young woman, a victim of domestic abuse, suddenly turns the tables on her partner and subjects him to yet more vicious violence. And while this confrontation is shot with quick cross-cuts, following rapid, David Mamet-like dialogue, in the next episode the camera slowly circles the young woman and her mother, a couple who are less spectacularly, if no less profoundly, unhappy.

Similarly, the intricate plotting rings the changes on characters whose dialogue is abstract and motivations obscure. The old woman, who has forgotten her love for the young woman's mother, is forgotten in turn (or so it would appear) by the brother whose wife she had seduced. Or again, the elderly man, whose expertise at cooking seems to generate inexplicable hostility in his daughter, is shown in the next episode having sex with a male prostitute, a more likely motive for the girl's anger. While Max Ophuls' La ronde (1950) is the obvious precedent here, in its understated anomie and polymorphous sexuality, Carícies also recalls Chantal Akerman's Toute une nuit (1982), which likewise takes place over a single night and whose multiple partners are both gay and straight.

The overt anonymity of characters and setting does not hide Pons' commitment to Catalan culture, manifest not only in the use of that language (Carícies was dubbed into Castilian for Spanish audiences) but in his continuing artistic collaboration with some of the biggest literary and theatrical names in the country. The unnamed city is clearly Barcelona, with repeated shots of the revolving clock above the central Plaça de Catalunya. A consummate director of actors, Pons elicits effective underplayed performances from his Catalan actors, whether they are attractive newcomers (Naïm Thomas, Roger Coma) or veterans of cinema and television, Julieta Serrano, the passionate but frustrated Mother Superior in Pedro Almodovar's Entre tinieblas/Dark Habits, finally gets to kiss a female lover on screen; Rosa Maria Sardà, a familiar face in sitcoms and farces, is touching as the mother who cannot admit the truth about the gay son on whose cash she depends. And Sardà subtly redeems the unlikely pay off in the last episode, promising to treat the wounded young man she comforts "better than a mother".

Beyond its intricate plotting, effortless shooting style and polished performances, however, the importance of Carícies is as a new model for the Spanish urban film: an implicit rebuke to the coarse post-Almodovar Madrid comedies that are now dominant in the domestic market. Pons' elegant Barcelona-based art movie suggests that austerity may be the way forward for a Spanish cinema whose love of excess must soon lead to diminishing returns. Erotic and eloquent, Carícies proves that the ever-fragile Catalan film industry, whose public subsidies have not always produced such impressive results should not be written off just yet.

 

Paul Julian Smith

SIGHT AND SOUND

The script skillfully portrays whole lives with minimalist touches, and it's good to see a helmer questioning cinematic cliches about love.

Prolific and idiosyncratic producer-helmer Ventura Pons delivers probably his most accomplished pic with the Catalan-language "Caresses", a darkly intelligent, wordy and distinctly non-cinematic take on the trials of urban love. Pic is liberatingly daring in both theme and treatment, but the price of such daring is occasional pretentiousness. Though it will consolidate Pons' reputation, mainstream auds do not react kindly to this kind of intensity, and good fest runs and arthouse showings are pic's likeliest offshore fate. Based on a 1991 play by Sergi Belbel, pic is structured like a chain: each of its 11 interlocking scenes involves two characters, one of whom then passes forward into the next until the chain clicks neatly into a circle at the end. There is no plot, and dynamics are built around shifts in perspective and mood. And that perspective is pretty pessimistic, whatever kind of love you're feeling -romantic, familial or filial. In this pic, nobody understands anybody, and anybody, the universalized character names suggest, is everybody.
In the first scene, a Young Man (David Selvas) slaps a Young Woman (Laura Conejero), and then gets kicked to pieces by her as, in Pinteresque fashion, she asks him what he'd like for dinner. Another scene has vet actresses Julieta Serrano and Montserrat Salvador kissing each other in an old peolple's home; in another, an Old Man (Jordi Dauder) is fellated by a rent boy (Roger Coma) to persuade himself that he is, in fact, alive. The only comic scene, badly needed by the time it rolls around, has a Man (Sergi López) hilariously and pathetically mouthing off about the smell of his ex-girlfriend's (Mercè Pons) genitals.
Pic is a film of people talking, not listening -less dialogue than monologue, as the various characters try to come to terms, often memorably, with themselves and the people close to them. Sometimes what they say is wearily self-regarding. But because the script skillfully portrays whole lives with minimalist touches, there is often an interesting ambiguity about exactly what the relationship between the characters is, and it is good to see a helmer who is prepared to question so radically the standard cinematic cliches about love.
Pic also has an enjoyably surreal quality, heightened by the links between scenes -high-speed camera shots of cars tearing around a city at night a la "Lost Highway".
Perfs, on which pic depends entirely for its success, are generally strong, with the veteran actors standing out. Music by Carles Cases modulates nicely between heavy rock, free jazz and New Age. Working against the movie are its over-schematic structure -Pons could have strayed further from the stage play- and that characters emerge from the ideas rather than the other way round.

Jonathan Holland

VARIETY

Ventura Pons is a perfectionist. "I love to be the boss", the Catalan producer / director of Caresses says. "After a few films, being the boss gives you freedom".
For a film by a man with the will to freedom in his veins, Caresses is a powerfully claustrophobic piece. Adapted from the play by Sergi Belbel by way of Arthur Schnitzler's Reigen, the film's chain structure -eleven interlocking scenes featuring two characters, one of whom passes forward into the next link, is a dense, stylish exploration of the difficulties of love in our frenzied, postmodern world (otherwise known as Barcelona) which plays down its cinematic quality in favour of a fairly straight reproduction of the theatrical original. (...).
"I had to do Carícies very quickly", Pons says. "This is the nice thing about being independent is that you can be impulsive". But Carícies shows no signs of this haste. The cumulative effect of seeing (and hearing -apart from a fellatio, the sex in Carícies is strictly aural) these characters poetically and awkwardly delivering their various monologues on the impossibility of communication is quite overpowering. The quality of the dialogue prevents it from merely being an exercise of style.
The basically Catalan cast has Pons working with only two actors who have appeared in any of his previous 11 films, which include What it's all about, more recently, Actresses.
Slowly, Pons is acquiring an international reputation, particularly across the border in France. "Catalonia has a prestige about it", he explains, "though unfortunately this is more true abroad than in Spain". Carícies, which he describes as "a film for festivals", should consolidate Catalonia's reputation still further.

American Film Market

MOVING PICTURES

THE WAY TO PERFECTION

Essential viewing with enjoyment guaranteed, this work is a mind-blowing centrefold of urban loneliness, an eloquent catalogue of characters marked by isolation and incapacitated for any affective contact; symbols, then, of a tragedy of our times which the authors appear to temper from time to time with touches of high comedy and more than one incursion into the legacy of the absurd. They are, however, evident concessions, administered with impeccable rigour with the wisdom of the hand that rocks the cradle. In reality, the humour which arises in some scenes of Caresses is as acid as a lemon in a funeral wake.

Perpetrated for the stage by a highly reputed figure of the Catalan theatre, Sergi Belbel, a disturbing text here appears reconverted for the screen by Ventura Pons in a exhibition of talent verging on virtuosity. That both author and director are two old hands of great account is evident in the complacency with which they play on the different levels of reading, but above all in their precision in evoking oppressive atmospheres out of a constant transgression of appearances.

Of his two previous literary adaptations - What it's all about and Actresses - one could say Pons has got an "outstanding". In this case he takes home a cum laude, as well as establishing an anomaly in the present time of Spanish cinema: he demonstrates that it is possible to turn the nights of the city into a dramatic myth without having to resort to the post-Almodavarian aesthetic. This is worth recalling at a time when the concept of urban comedy is beginning to tire us, if not to be completely loathsome (Más que amor frenesí, to cite a model). We adore the fact that, for once, "the urban" is not destined to portray the city - almost always a supposedly modern Madrid - as a centre irremediably populated by two-bit punks, moth-eaten drag queens and executives with pretensions of sophistication (i.e., involuntary vulgarities). On this occasion, the abysses hiding behind the lives of the "little people" prove to be a perverse crossroads between Italian neo-realism, Ingmar Bergman and David Mamet. And I'd go as far as to say that Ventura Pons' version goes even further than the scenic original, which, at least when I saw it, appeared to me to be impaired by the direction of the author himself, falling victim to self-indulgence.

From a strictly cinematographic point of view, the sense of self-indulgence is absent from this admirable conglomerate, a puzzle in which everything seems to fit together so rigorously as to touch on perfection yet at the same time display enough -and the necessary - modesty to avoid this perfection being noted in excess. It's easy to imagine that Pons has gained this rare talent through a long apprenticeship as a cinéphile in the old tradition. Caresses recalls Bergman, Dreyer, Satyajit Ray, Fassbinder or Pasolini, a package that might frighten those accustomed to applauding the influences of the worst comic in the work of Alex de la Iglesia and others of his like. It's important to state that those who feel an attraction for the quaint use of violence of that supreme stupidity entitled Perdita Durango have little to do before the powerful lash of interior violence which, from beginning to end, is exuded by these evil Caresses. For once, brutality appears tightly fastened to the very origins of life, variant human relations. In this sense, and in almost all those it encapsulates, Caresses is a very harsh work, subterraneanly terrible, and Pons' merit as a film-maker lies in having achieved that only the most well-informed can detect that a theatrical origin once existed.

The legend of Catalan theatre would have it that Caresses be, moreover, a domestic replica of La Ronde, the work of Schniztler converted into a cinema classic by Max Ophuls and, later, vilely assassinated by that murderer of great themes, Roger Vadim. It will always be the first version that illuminates us, and in this regard comparisons are inevitable, but it would be unfair to go beyond the merely structural aspects: various stories -at times anecdotal notes- linked by a common connecting theme. In Ophuls, this theme originates in the anthological presentation of a narrator/shaman with all the decadent elegance of Anton Walbrook. In Pons' film the connecting theme is much like a nightmare of a virus-ridden computer: the streets of the night city captured in mind-blowing subjective shots, expressing oppression, delirium, nightmares, and defining the limits between life and fiction. These limits seem to be Nothingness. From whence the labyrinth closes in on itself in a fit of neo-existentialism.

Pons' practice in the theatre is notable once again in the direction of his actors, accompanied here by a true dissection of the human face and an extraordinary attention to nuance, favoured by Belbel's minimalist dialogues. In this sense stands out the scene of the boy who aspires to get his father into the bath, the happy outcome of the purchase of a new car; the freshness of the dialogue is helped along by the spontaneity of the young actor Naïm Thomàs, defined by the vagabond character as "an angel". A more than precise definition.

Another highlight, as always, is that mother of all battles, Rosa Maria Sardà. Her delivery of the text is a lesson in mastery. But there are other jewels in the contributions of Agustín González, Mercè Pons, Julieta Serrano, Montserrat Salvador and Jordi Dauder as the man who complicates the theory of Cocteau's mirrors by placing them before an act of fellatio instead of before a Jean Marais. The executor of the act is another young actor, Roger Coma, of whom it must be said, in all fairness, that he constitutes a pleasure for connoisseurs. Without a doubt, the connoisseurs will know what I mean.

TERENCI MOIX

FOTOGRAMAS

A PERTURBING FILM

A disturbing film about this bleak end of century, there is in Caresses a willingness to take risks for which we must thank Pons, altogether a formidable director of actors. Actors in a film where the dialogues carry substantial weight, but in which they are also expressed through eye games subject to a final, definitive view on the part of the camera which Pons uses admirably as an element of visual writing.

Lluis Bonet

La Vanguardia

"CARESSES": THE LONELINESS OF TWO IN COMPANY

... a splendid, furious and absolutely personal film...

... characters portrayed... by a master hand. And brilliantly encarnated by a forum of truly exceptional actors, from amongst whom it would be unfair to underline any one in particular, since, most probably, whether newcomers or veterans, male or female, none of them has ever been better.

César santos

ABC

Caresses bears witness... to a moment of unquestionable creative maturity.

In this hard film, there is love, tenderness and a great deal of humour.

 

Fernando Leite

Guía del Ocio

Independently from the magnificent play which serves as the point of departure for Ventura Pons film, the weight of the strictly filmic is notable. I'd go so far as to assert that the film-maker has found a very precise style (planning, the direction of actors, lighting) in order to come close to reality without naturalistic servitude.

The truth, and it doesn't cease to amaze me, is that this curious, unique film with its apparent simplicity and sober approach to eleven characters and eleven encounters, ends up becoming a prodigious treatment on the here and now of almost all of us.

Antoni Llorens

Cartelera Turia

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