DE LA IGLESIA’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAYHEM
A Review of My Big Night by Sheila Seclearr, FILMARADO.
Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia has earned a cult following with his rapid, edgy humor and frenzied satires and My Big Night (Mi Gran Noche) garnered a lot of award attention in Spain. His ensemble cast keeps the pace swift but it’s the amazingly tight direction and editing that keep you from spinning out of your chair. This is a big party, and if you sit back and roll with it, there are belly laughs, schemes and twists everywhere.
The set is a locked-down television taping for a glitzy New Year’s Eve program while outside, it’s gloomy October and rioters swarm to protest Spain’s growing unemployment. That’s emphasized when Jose (Pepon Nieto) ignores a family emergency to accept a set extra job that he’s waited three months to get. He doesn’t realize he’s replacing an extra crushed by an out-of-control camera, the conception of the perpetual camera jinx jokes. Jose’s mother shows up on the set (it’s Aida’s Carmen Machi) and steals every scene she’s in.
Headline acts press the job-insecurity theme when old-timer Alphonso (played wickedly by Raphael) learns the first song of the New Year will be performed by the up-and-truly-coming heartthrob, Adanne (Mario Casas). In the film’s ongoing chase to find a stolen vial of Adanne’s precious semen, you wonder just how many vials there could be and how many more people could get involved in the hunt for this all-important treasure. There’s such a twisted backstage murder plot, that you’re sure the subversive action could explode on anyone, just like Adanne’s fluids.
De la Iglesia loves a spectacle and creates multi-layers and sub-plots that cavort as masterfully as the shimmering, choreographed dancers. The truly great dance choreography extends to the multiple screens showing the action, from the stage to the back-screen, security cameras, phones and even an outside remote truck tipped over by the protestors. Wild camera angles and exaggerated colors keep telling the story that everything, everywhere has run amok.
The programmed extras filling the fake party audience are told by the stage director that it’s all absurd: “Just do whatever you want.” Even after ten days of this mayhem inside the studio, they’ll do anything to keep from being part of the unemployed mob outside. All the little side-stories, from backstage to under the tables keep spinning the humor on its side, making the remote truck’s tipping point a metaphor for the director’s beautiful love affair with mayhem.