By Michael De Martino
(Bigas Luna, 1992, Spain, in Spanish, Drama/comedy, 95 minutes)
Set in a small, arid town in southern Spain, Jamón Jamón tells the age-old story of forbidden love where the connection between food and sex is taken to a whole new extreme. Silvia (Penelope Cruz) and Jose Luis (Armando Del Rio) plan to marry despite his mother’s disapproval. In an attempt to sabotage the relationship his mother hires Raul (Javier Bardem) to woo Silvia away from Jose Luis. Of course such plans never do run smoothly and soon spirals out of control.
The tone of Jamón Jamón is haphazard. It begins as a genuine drama: Silvia is pregnant with Jose Luis’ child, Silvia’s father is an abusive drunk who has been kicked out of the family, and Raul aspires to be a world famous bullfighter. However, far too often the film seems to lose it’s sense of direction with scenes which can only be described as ‘melodramatic’ or even ‘parodist’; but because of the seeming randomness of these occurrences it can be difficult to determine whether they are intentionally symbolic and satirical or just plain absurd farce.
One such scene sees Silvia smashing a clock in slow motion with exaggerated sound effects, while another sees her declare her love for Raul after he crashes his motorbike killing the family pet piglet, despite her hatred for him merely seconds earlier. Scenes like these leave us feeling confused, unsure whether we should be laughing or searching for some kind of hidden meaning.
Although hard to decipher what exactly the film was trying to achieve, my mind had been made up while witnessing the hilariously terrible climax which has to be seen to be believed
Despite its constant tone changes, Jamón Jamón has genuine entertainment value with decent acting and interesting camera techniques. And although the film is mostly unsuccessful, you will have fun watching it, even if it is for all the wrong reasons.
Showing at ACMI on Friday 22 April 9pm