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Voices in the Night.

(LAS VOCES DE LA NOCHE)

(SPAIN-ITALY)

A Columbia TriStar release (in Spain) of a DeAPlaneta, Esicma (Spain)/Mikado Italy) production, in association with Antena 3, Canal Plus, TVC. (International sales: DeAPlaneta, Barcelona.) Executive producer, Pau Calpe Rufat.

Directed, written by Salvador Garcia Ruiz, based on a novel by Natalia Ginzburg. Camera (color), Teo Delgado; editor, Carmen Frias; music, Pascal Gaigne; art directors, Monica Bernuy, Federico Garcia Cambero; sound (Dolby Digital) Jorge Ruiz. Reviewed at Cine Princesa. Madrid, Feb. 23, 2004. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: Laia Marull, Tristan Ulloa, Vicky Pena, Juli Mira, Ramon Madaula, Pere Arquillue, Ana Wagener, Pepa Zaragoza, Malena Alterio, Alvaro Luna.

A well-dressed, if over-earnest, romancer set in an anonymous pueblo in 1950s Spain, Salvador Garcia Ruiz's "Voices in the Night" is a world away from helmer's youth-themed first two features. Pic tells its quiet tale of the emotional confusions in Spain half a century ago somewhat ponderously, and is unlikely to set non-Spanish pulses racing. Hispanic territories and fest berths look likeliest for this otherwise solidly built, well-played movie.

Timid Elisa (Laia Marull) lives a sedate existence with her sharp-tongued mother (Vicky Pena) and submissive father (Juli Mira). Mom's sole ambition is to find a husband for her daughter. However, on the quiet Elisa is meeting twice a week for sex with Jorge (Tristan Ulloa), the idle, freethinking son of the owner of a nearby factory which dominates local life. Neither is happy with the otherwise airless existences they lead.

Their intriguing relationship loses much interest when Jorge unexpectedly turns up at Elisa's home with the aim of crossing the families' social divide and asking her to marry him. A somewhat complex, fragmented subplot--centered on the lives and loves of Jorge's family--is increasingly foregrounded hereon.

This subplot includes the arrogant Pepe (Pere Arquillue), adopted by the factory's founder, and an old man (Alvaro Luna), whose rapid ascent in the company has provoked the ire of his siblings. Both have suffered in love and their stories fresher deepen pie's theme of the influence that politics can have on emotional lives.

These tales are told in flashbacks, more brightly-colored than the main yarn to indicate more vibrant emotional times. Though they will have a major effect on Elisa, they feel dramatically rushed compared with the leisurely exposition of the Elisa/Jorge section, and are pretty standard romancer fare.

Pic is suffused with period melancholy, reinforced by the use of ocher-ish tones. The gossip driven dynamics of smalltown life during a politically oppressed period of Spanish history and its contrast with freer pre-Civil Win" years are neatly rendered, with a wealth of appropriate period detail.

Characterization is agreeably nuanced, but both the dependably first-rate Marull ("Take My Eyes") and Ulloa struggle to galvanize the spiritual side of their characters and bring their romance alive. Jorge's family is collectively self-regarding and unsympathetic. Occasionally, a line of really bright dialogue leaps out, particularly from the lips of Elisa's motor mouthed mother: Pena, as the morn, and Malena Alterio, as Elisa's bosom buddy Julia, are the only sources of onscreen energy.

Pascal Gaigne's understated music combines nicely with classical piano pieces, further underscoring the generally low-key mood.
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Title Annotation:movie
Author:Holland, Jonathan
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Mar 8, 2004
Words:526
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