HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THE RED SQUIRREL -- DVD Review by Porfle

I'll be honest--an artsy-sounding Spanish film called THE RED SQUIRREL, aka "La ardilla roja" (Olive Films, 1993), with a creepy-looking DVD cover and a synopsis that reeked of askance-romance had me feeling 100% non-expectant. 

But then I started watching it, and that first post-titles shot of Nancho Novo as "Jota" standing at the rail of a bridge at night, debating over whether or not to jump, had me thinking "This looks like it was directed by someone who cares." 

Indeed, director Julio Medem, as it turns out, is one of those deliberate yet tasteful visual stylists who can make a movie look compelling from beginning to end. 

And then the story kicks in, when a beautiful young woman (Emma Suárez) on a motorcycle goes over the rail instead--accidentally--and Jota rushes to attend to and comfort her as she lay there in the sand before the ambulance arrives. 

We love him for doing so in such a gentle and encouraging way.  But then we feel a little creepy when, upon discovering that she now has amnesia, he claims to be her boyfriend and that they've been in love for years.

It turns out that Jota's former love Elise has left him, and now it's love-at-first-sight for her convenient new replacement, whom he also calls Elise.  She falls for the whole set-up, and together they go on a romantic vacation at a rustic campground by a lake, far from inquiring doctors and psychologists.

Here, their interactions with other campers--in particular, a family that gets a little too inquisitive and too involved in their odd business--lead to an increasingly dicey situation for the deceptive Jota and his fantasy girlfriend with the tentative memory.

Performances are fine, with Novo allowing us to empathize with Jota despite the actual creepiness of what he's up to, and Emma Suárez being just utterly captivating even when her character's seams begin to show (like him, she isn't quite what she appears to be). 

Director Medem brings his own sharply-written script to life in thoroughly engaging fashion, so that even the somewhat draggier parts have enough mystery and  visual interest to keep us involved.  This is augmented by a quirky, offbeat musical score that's darkly beautiful. 

The deliberate pace allows us to relish each twist and turn in the plot until finally the secrets all come forth like fireworks for a vividly enlightening finale. 

And when the smoke cleared, I found myself very glad indeed that I'd given an odd-looking movie called THE RED SQUIRREL a chance, because it has to be one of the most satisfying viewing experiences I've had in years.

Buy it from Olive Films

nr (not rated)

english (optional)

1.66:1 aspect ratio; color

114 min



No comments: