Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: The Bar (Iglesia, 2017): Spain

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Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Director Álex de la Iglesia rehashes an oft-used scenario of a group of individuals held against their will in a life-threatening situation in his new film, The Bar (and yes, it is set in a bar). The titles roll with a peppy jazz beat. The location is present day Madrid, Spain. Iglesia wisely opens with the stunningly beautiful Blanca Suarez (kudos to José Quetglas for Make-up) as Elena, waltzing through a fast-moving urban city-scape while conversing on her cellular phone about her romantic prospects while a business man initially crosses her path bearing the same lughole accessory. Ángel Amorós serves as Director of Photography and his opening scene is nothing short of brilliant. A must-see!

Both these characters, Elena and the businessman, wind up in the nearby bar where quick transitions from Editor Domingo Gonzales reveal colorful characters in a slapstick-like manner. Costumer Paolo Torres outfits the group in rich, vivid attire. Short exchanges of dialogue compliment the character intros. Suddenly, a blast overwhelms the bar. Sound Designer, Sergio Burmann, creates a reverberation somewhere between gunshot and a medium-grade explosive.

Without missing a beat, a body is discovered lying outside the front door sidewalk. A patron exits to discover what happened wen another, now identifiable, gun blast takes his life. The patrons scurry for cover. Brief pandemonium rules. However, the trepidity begins to recede and an observation is made – the streets are empty. An eery feeling has taken ahold.

From here Iglesia embarks on an adventurous, often calamitous tale. The colorful characters’ personality layers  (and clothing!) are peeled as they try to stay alive. However, along the way, lives are lost. Yet,  truths are revealed and inner strength is found.

The film has a runtime of 102 minutes allowing for some emotional depth in his supporting characters while bringing Elena to full fruition. Warmly recommended film for the 67th Berlinale!

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