Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nacho Vigalondo's Extraterrestrial - Romance and Alien Invasion

Slam bang science fiction adventure? Try romantic comedy.

Julio (Julian Villagran) wakes up naked on a bed in an unfamiliar room. He finds a beautiful girl, moving around anxious of his presence, and he thinks she could be the girl of his dreams. Her name - Julia (Michelle Jenner)! When he finally comes around his disorientation, he realizes that they've had a crazy night in a bar and ended up in her flat. Of course, he claims his memory of the past night was all out of his pocket. He couldn't find his pants. "Try the living room," she says. This pretty girl is framed by her petite frame, brown hair and soulful eyes... and she's anxious.

When he's about to leave, he meets Angel (Carlos Areces), the creepy next door neighbor who "stalks" Julia. Something unsettling unravels. He knew something. In  fact, Angel's ears were probably glued on his walls, listening to Julio and Julio's cries of desire all night. Julia invites Angel over for breakfast to feign normalcy of the situation. "This is...what's your name again?" she talks to Julio. "He fainted and I had to take him here to rest," she tells Angel, but the latter is aware of the ruse. What is more urgent is the fact that most of the city (Madrid) has been evacuated. A spaceship that spans 4 miles hover over the metropolis. The streets that used to be congested is now eerily deserted. All phone lines have been cut; communication signals don't work - except for a UHF channel run by a sniveling megalomaniac moron. The government has cordoned the area under the air-borne ship. It is the holocaust, or so it seems! But where are the alien invaders?

Then they get a knock on the door. Carlos (Raul Cimas), Julia's husband, arrives - after walking 8 1/2 hours from Escorial. Suddenly, Julio understands Julia's anxiety. He realizes his need to leave. What becomes of his romantic feelings towards the girl?

Julio and Julia

Director Nacho Vigalondo comes up with a follow up to his brilliant, but twisty sci-fi chiller, "Timecrimes" which I saw at the Spanish Film Festival a few years ago. The film departs from the usual adrenaline action associated with such apocalyptic premise. In fact, we never see a single alien character. Vigalondo mostly confines his characters in a room, paranoid of the goings on around a city supposedly invaded by extraterrestrial beings. It also becomes a compelling character study of human nature: the devoted and trusting husband, the unfaithful and seduced wife; the infatuated other-man; and the desperate stalker who's angry at Julio for getting the girl of his dreams in the sack - while he could only listen and watch.

This is also a morality tale. It spotlights what a little white lie can do to push a bad situation spiraling down into events far worse than an alien invasion. Julian Villagran sizzles as the lovestruck industrial engineer (minus the degree). His emotions are too palpable, he endears without excessive emotionality. Michelle Jenner works hard for a part that requires indecision, anxiety, doubt, affection and paranoia - that to me is a tall order. But what's really different is how we find ourselves laughing intermittently as Julia, Julio, and Carlos deal with the disgruntled neighbor Angel. This is clearly an effective comedy, yet you never see them work as hard as Eugene Domingo, thus the laughs come out spontaneously. There are moments of unease as you are made aware that infidelity isn't such a romantic notion. But then you cannot deny those giggly moments of slight brushes of fingers, stolen glances - and, yes, a quick humping on the couch! Bad, bad Julio and Julia!

Spanish cinema once again shows us how good films are made.

Rumor has it that this film is already being re-done for its Hollywood version... with Tom Cruise, no less playing Julio! I am good with that! After all, "Vanilla Sky" wasn't a bad remake of "Abre de los Ojos". Right, Penelope Cruz?

With a videocam, Julio and Julia spies on the activities of the hovering spaceship.



Carlos tries to scare Angel (off the frame) with an unloaded gun, as Julio looks on.

Julian Villagran is brilliant.

Naughty Michelle Jenner

Michelle Jenner

Michelle Jenner

Michelle Jenner

Madrid gets invaded by aliens.

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