As Luck Would Have It Alex de la Iglesia

As Luck Would Have It Alex de la Iglesia
6
Throughout his career, Spain's preeminent craftsman of macabre cinematic fables, Alex de la Iglesia, has displayed a deep interest in the politics of performance and the double-edged fortune of spectacle. In this oddly overlooked, darkly funny drama, the director has ample opportunity to explore both obsessions within the context of a media satire that's far subtler than past works, like the vicious, demented clown love story, The Last Circus. In As Luck Would Have It, Iglesia examines the determination of Roberto (Jose Mota), an unemployed ad man, to shape his fortune by shamelessly squeezing the teat of the media machine. On the way home from another failed job interview, Roberto is feeling a little nostalgic, so he swings by the location of the hotel where he and his doting wife (Salma Hayek) spent their honeymoon. In its place, connected to a museum, he finds a recently uncovered Roman theatre that's about to be unveiled to the press—– a handy way of illustrating the impermanence of life and establishing a perfect setting for the winking drama about to unfold. One freak accident later, Roberto finds himself at the centre of a national news story. Being a professional opportunist, he immediately hires a publicist to work the unfortunate spectacle, hoping to make enough money to provide for his family should he not survive. Iglesia does a great job of making the anchored action feel grand (due to the nature of the accident, Roberto can't safely be moved), working in wide shots of the ancient theatre and effectively spreading screen time between the various parties working to save (the doctor), exploit (competing TV stations) or remove (museum staff) the severely injured father and husband. Most of the cast, especially Hayek, are very good, nailing a tricky blend of intimate drama and sideshow bombast. Even the paramedics are moderately well developed characters, although Roberto's goth son feels like a hastily sketched afterthought. We don't really learn much about the reporter that Roberto eventually agrees to speak with either (Ieglesia's lovely partner, Carolina Bang), but it seems to be part of the point that most of the players with vested outside interests are one-dimensional and single-minded. It's the victim and the people closest to him we learn enough about to empathize with, the rest are vultures simply trying to feed. The score by Joan Valent is appropriately melodramatic, with a hint of knowing mischievousness, matching the tone of the acting, the surprising but restrained gore, the lighting and cinematography — every element of the film is designed to be just a little larger than life, as it is when distorted by the eye of the press. It's too bad that no special features are included, as there's plenty worth discussing in this uniquely Spanish take on issues previously examined in Network and Ace in the Hole. (Mongrel Media)