Monday, June 1, 2020

Cria cuervos

There's a scene in Carlos Saura’s Cria cuervos (Raise Ravens 1976) where three children re-enact the domestic drama of their deceased parents. The oldest child Irene (Conchi Perez) dresses in her mother's bra, the middle one, Ana (Ana Torrent), the dreamily stolid protagonist, wears her mother’s lipstick and the youngest, Maite (Maite Sanchez), her mother’s heels. The subject is putatively the lying and infidelity of the father, Anselmo (Hector Alterio). The fact that he’s an army officer in the Franco era adds another level of significance. However, the scene recalls the famous moment in Bunuel’s Viridiana (1961) when the local hoi polloi loot the manor. The difference is the role of the servant class is now rendered by children—a statement imprinted with the historical legacy of old family photos, one of the repeated leitmotifs of the film. At one moment, Maria (Geraldine Chaplin) the deceased mother complains that childhood is "an intolerably long and sad time, full of fear.” But more profoundly the subject is the loss of innocence and the duplicity of the fascist society the young have inherited. Even as she's dying and writhing in pain, Geraldine Chaplin is lied to about her condition. “Raise ravens and they will pluck out your eyes,” is the homily on which the film’s English title is based. Is the movie about retribution or accounting for the past? Probably both, but Ana is a complex standard bearer, a doppelgänger and willful clairvoyant, who Hedda Gabler-like brandishes her father's gun. One of the most trenchant images of the film is one in which Ana is depicted playing house in a swimming pool, emptied of water. She's a seer to the extent that she's the emblematic witness to both her family's story as well as history.

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