Pedro Almodóvar doesn’t live here anymore
The FEDEORA – Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean – Award for the best film at the International Love Film Festival in Mons (Belgium) 2011, went to Rodrigo Rodero for the beautiful and, above all, promising film El Idioma Imposible (Spain 2010, 1h 30’, col, 35mm; with Andrés Gertrúdix, Irene Escolar, Helena Miquel, Karra Elejalde, Isabel Ampudia; screenplay: Rodrigo Rodero and Michel Gaztambide, from the novel El Día Del Watusi by Francisco Casavella; production: Luis Bellido, Raquel Colera, Rodrigo Rodero; cinematographer: Luis Bellido; editor: Fernando Franco; original music: José Sánchez-Sanz; production company: Skapada Films).
Director Rodrigo Rodero was born in Madrid in 1974 and graduated in audiovisual communication. He is co-founder of the production companies Skapada Films and Marela Films and, oddly enough, if you consider the quality of his mise-en-scène, absolutely free from the typical immature style of early works – El Idioma Imposible is his first full-length work.
But Rodero not only does he not adopt Almodóvar’s renowned point-of-view about the language of Spanish mélo, he also seems to have brilliantly rediscovered the basic elements of cinema. Furthermore, Rodero is an anomalous movie director, son of the transformation of Spanish cinema after Francisco Franco’s death (see: J. E. Monterde, Veinte Años De Cine Español. Un Cine Bajo La Paradoja, Barcelona 1993), but totally different from other directors (see, of course: V. Sánchez-Biosca, La Aromatica Postmodernidad Española Y Su Sacerdote: Almodóvar, Valencia 1995). It is a novelty for the whole of European cinema.
It has to be admitted that the basic cinematographic elements are here reinterpreted: the slow but vibrant close-ups (as touching as those at the end of Todd Haynes’ mélo Far From Heaven, 2002), and the opposite temptation to hide all the characters and all the actions on the screen, with endless silences (that is, with an exquisite melodramatic nature, “I can’t view, I can’t speak, I can’t love you, my dear”). And more: the sense of tragedy through repeated slow motion (recalling the camera movements of Wong Kar-Wai’s hyper-mélo In the Mood for Love, 2000). Furthermore: the skilful use of the nondiegetic music and of the nondiegetic voice-off (as creatively tearful as the cinematographic subterfuge of the Douglas Sirk mélo Imitation of Life). In addition: the editing, as “wandering” as characters themselves is reminiscent of the brilliant work of Mario Serandrei on Luchino Visconti’s mélo masterpiece Senso, 1954). And that’s not all.
Yes, the plot may be secondary. Fernando (Andrés Gertrúdix) lives amongst the shady characters in the heart of Barcelona’s Barrio Chino, trying to make a living as an amphetamine dealer. One morning he meets Elsa (Irene Escolar), a sweet young teenager with an over-the-top, self-destructive personality, and falls in love with her. Together, they try to survive in the slums of Barcelona which, after dark, are ruled by people on society’s borders. However, please note that El Idioma Imposible isn’t a classic melodrama: it is more visionary than sentimental, having interjected the model of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s cinema (e.g. Biutiful, 2010, set again in the not-so-beautiful slums of Barcelona).
Above all, the tutelary deity of Rodrigo Rodero is the art of Michelangelo Antonioni: in the first act of the movie as well as near the end, the sense of alienation and of incommunicability transforms the melodramatic genre into a subtle tragedy without words, without eye contact (see the strange chains of shots and reverse-shots, quite similar to those in the cinema of Yasujiro Ozu) and without authentic loves (the tragedy of false loves as a desire of dependency recalls Bernardo Bertolucci too, and the lethal romanticism of Last Tango in Paris, 1972).
Fernando, the main character, is capable of viewing the tiny and progressive details of a painting (in a sequence with the character of Victoria, played by the excellent actress and singer Helena Miquel), just like in Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), but he’s not able to recognize the need of love of oneself and of others. Therefore love is an impossible word. From beginning to the end, from a stylistic point of view, all the characters are filmed preferably facing backwards. Perhaps, the power of the cinema too, for Rodrigo Rodero, is an impossible word: El Idioma Imposible, precisely.
Gabriele Barrera, FEDEORA.eu, 6 March 2011