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Monday, 20 May 2013

Cría cuervos (Raise Ravens). Carlos Saura. BFI releases on DVD/Blu-ray for the first time in UK. 27 May 2013.

Cría cuervos (Raise Ravens), 1976, Carlos Saura.
Courtesy BFI

Cría cuervos (Raise Ravens). Carlos Saura. BFI releases on DVD/Blu-ray for the first time in UK. 27 May 2013.

La película (109mn), la intervista con Carlos Saura en BFI Southbank en 2012 (23mn) y el documental (63mn) estan en castellano con subtitulo/traducción en ingles.
With Geraldine Chaplin and Ana Torrent.

Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos = Raise ravens and they will pluck out your eyes. This is a Spanish proverb that partly titles Saura’s film shot in the summer of 1975, the year of Francisco Franco’s death (November), Spain dictator since 1939: a film under Franco’s regime against Franco. A film that had to go through strong censorship like any other Spanish films at the time and like any films in other countries suffering dictatorship! Elías Querejeta, the producer of many Saura’s films, managed to produce other subtly denouncing films under Franco.
Subtle as it is set in a “sepia” Franco-ism household representing Spain gangrened by a severe Catholicism of state and an authoritarian army leaving its children scarred by its submissive and repressive brutality.
Cría cuervos is the kind of film that will print onto your brain Ana’s contemplative wide eyes. Eyes who observe, judge or don’t judge the world of adults: what exactly does she understand when she witnesses her father’s mistress escaping his bedroom the night of his death? Both of them exchange glances. One in a panicking state, the other one strongly stoical.
Eight year old Ana (Ana Torrent), burdened in an agonising ocean of austerity will travel her world between reality and fantasy resisting the world of adults and refusing the condition of “feminity”: while playing with her sisters, she says she will never wear bras when she grows up. Ana and her two more docile sisters, 11 year-old Irene and five year old Maite are left orphans after Ana poisoned her high ranking military father whom she silently accuses of her mother’s death played by Geraldine Chaplin. The disciplinarian aunt Paulina - “nobody has taught you good manners at the table?” – comes in as a carer when she is obviously not comfortable in her newly mother role.
When Ana escapes the reality, she resurrects her mother (who appears dressed in the same boring two-pieces suit). They embrace, play piano, share jokes. Cria cuervos is a formidable love tale between a mother and a daughter, a fusión of complicité that allows the film to breathe when intensity becomes unbearable for Ana or perhaps for the viewer…
Chaplin plays also Ana as an adult reflecting on her past, 20 years on.
When left alone in the care of the outspoken housekeeper Rosa or the wheelchair bound and mute grand-mother, the girls use their aunt’s wigs and make-up to improvise scenes of their parents’ disputes, dance on Jeanette’s Porque Te Vas, or play around their disused/”abandoned” swimming pool (maybe a sign of the end of an era).
The strong moment of the film is when tranquil Ana coldly says in cadence fixing the camera with her wide brown eyes “que te mueras… que te mueras… quiero que te mueras” (die… die… I want you to die). This is addressed to her absent aunt. Ana will then repeat the same gesture (as she did to her father) of pouring poison to her aunt’s glass of milk. The next morning, Rosa wakes the girls up as it is their first day back to school. Summer is over. There is a moment of play time and joy under the bedsheet until the aunt comes in. Slowly, in disbelief, Ana comes out of the bedsheet. Can’t she decide of people’s fate?
Raise ravens and they will pluck out your eyes. Ravens are the children of future Spain in need of a deep spring clean. The girls walk now freely in the busy Madrilenian street, on their way to school but it is hard to know how far they will move on as any newly gained freedom needs time to readjust to “normality” and find a new existentiality.

Six months after Franco’s death, Cría cuervos won the Golden Palm in Cannes in 1976 as well as various other prestigious awards worldwide.

Xtra info on CRÍA CUERVOS (Raise Ravens) = A film by Carlos Saura. Spain, 1976. BFI DVD B1139. BBFC cert: 12. Feature:  109 minutes. Language: Spanish. Subtitles: English. DVD Special features: a portrait of Carlos Saura (José Luis López-Linares, 2004, 63mins. On-stage interview with Carlos Saura @ BFI Southbank (2012, 23 mins). Booklet featuring new essays and notes from Maria Delgado, Mar Diestro-Dópido and writer and film historian Michael Brooke. Presented in both HD and Standard Definition.

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