Friday, October 5, 2012

THE DISENCHANTMENT (viewed at Anthology Film Archives April 2012)

Jaime Chavarri's The Disenchantment (El desencanto), released 1976, but with an on-screen copyright of 1975 and containing footage audibly credited as being shot in 1974, offers a slow burn to patient audiences. The family of official Franco regime poet Leopoldo Panero sit before the cameras initially to discuss their memories of the patriarch who died in 1962, but as his wife and three sons reveal more of themselves and interact with one another in uncomfortable encounters, shot with two cameras and cutting back and forth between their anguish-filled faces, the Panero family's state of affairs becomes an analogy for the state of Spain in the wake of General Franco's death. Wife Felicidad, living in fear of her angry husband during their marriage, waxes nostalgic about the happy times spent with her children and the party-filled social life she indulged in as a widow. Eldest son Juan Luis is a mildly successful writer with delusions of grandeur who soaks himself in booze to get through his day; middle son Leopoldo Maria, the family success story whose on-screen presence is saved until the final act, has survived multiple suicide attempts, as well as frequent imprisonment and institutionalization, and venomously resents his mother and older brother (Juan Luis and Leopoldo refuse to appear on-camera together); baby brother Michi (the only brother who has died since the film's production) is the lost boy, struggling to find himself while caught in the crossfire of his family member's hateful squabbles. All speak of their father with unrestrained joy in the wake of his death, but cannot hide the everlasting damage he continues to inflict on the family who feared him in life. Panero himself isn't seen anywhere in the film, not even in excerpts from the family photo albums, but his overwhelming shadow is felt in every frame. Like Franco, his genesis will continue to haunt his survivors for quite some time. Disenchantment is an unsettling work and, though widely unavailable, is one to watch out for. A sequel, Después de tantos años (1994), reunited the brothers 20 years later to discuss what happened in their lives since this film, and judging from published reviews, things did not get prettier in that time.

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