The zany, genre-hopping Abracadabra kicks off the 21st Spanish Film Festival
The appropriately titled Abracadabra was shown at the media preview for the 21st Spanish Film Festival, showcasing a little of the movie magic in Spanish filmmaking. Beginning 19 April and running to 6 May, the festival hosted by Palace Cinemas is a mix of genres, from musical comedy in Fernando Colomo’s The Tribe to existential drama in celebrated auteur Fernando Franco’s Dying. There’s also plenty of zany, genre-hopping supernatural romantic comedy thrillers, which is probably the best way to describe Pablo Berger’s Abracadabra.
Carmen (Maribel Verdú) is a put-upon housewife. She lives in a small apartment with her aloof teenage daughter (Priscilla Delgado) and callous, inattentive husband Carlos (Antonio de la Torre). We first meet him bellowing at the football game on TV, failing to notice Carmen who’s dressed to the nines for the wedding they’re about to be late for.
You’ll notice right away what the Hollywood Reporter, reviewing this film, called ‘full on Spanishness’ in Alain Banee’s production design and the vibrant, explosively colourful costuming. Drab sets like the family’s apartment are offset by Carmen’s deep blue dress, the wedding is awash with colour, a giant flashing disco ball and rambunctious music. There’s a joy and a vibrancy in Spanish filmmaking you won’t see anywhere else.
The same could be said for Berger’s whacky script, which moves through genres like an athlete jumping hurdles. At the wedding, the surly Carlos is possessed by a spirit after a humdrum magic show. He begins to act peculiarly, at least to Carmen, who notices her formerly couch-potatoed husband is suddenly helping to clean up, assisting with their daughter’s homework and looking at his wife with a wide, innocent look of infatuation.
Antonio de la Torre’s character has a bit of a late-Adam Sandler vibe about him, as the grumpy middle-aged man who needs to be taught a lesson. This is the predictable direction the film appears to be going in, until, with the help of her magician friend Pepe (Jose Mota) they discover that a particularly malevolent spirit may be residing within her husband.
A romantic comedy with elements of horror, a big dance number, graphic violence and a variety of filmic styles, Abracadabra was a great introduction to the varied selection of movies the festival has to offer. By sheer variety, there’s bound to be something for everyone, in this film alone.
Tom Bensley is a freelance writer in Melbourne who reviews anything he attends, watches or reads. It’s a compulsion, really. Follow him @TomAliceBensley.
The Spanish Film Festival will be running from 19 April to 6 May at the Palace Cinemas and the Astor Theatre. The venues are wheelchair accessible.