Extraterrestrial Nacho Vigalondo

Extraterrestrial Nacho Vigalondo
Burgeoning Spanish auteur Nacho Vigalondo has followed up his clever obsession- and guilt-themed time travel conundrum, Time Crimes, with another delicately woven examination of how far people will go to cover up their indiscretions. Vigalondo employs another well-worn sci-fi setup to draw viewers in, understanding that offering a taste of the sensational is an effective method of tricking audiences into paying attention to more subtle intentions (as he illustrates in the "A Lesson in Filmmaking" short included in the special features of this DVD package). On the surface, Extraterrestrial is an alien invasion picture, but that's just one giant MacGuffin. Julio (Julian Villagran) and Julia (Michelle Jenner) are awkwardly navigating pleasantries the morning after a memory-impairing drunken hook-up when they notice that all forms of communication, save for terrestrial radio, are inoperable, and that there's a giant spaceship hanging in the sky. From the radio, we learn that there are ships positioned all over the country and that most citizens have been evacuated. What's happening outside only matters in relation to how the unknown elements of the situation can be exploited by Julio and Julia as their growing mutual affection threatens the delicate relationship balance among the small group of people hunkered down in Julia's apartment building while the city turns to anarchy. That group includes Carlos, the long-time boyfriend the comely, manipulative vixen neglected to mention, and Angel, a creepy neighbour with an obsessive crush (an egoless performance by Carlos Areces of The Last Circus that straddles the line between sympathetic and pestiferous). With the static nature of the alien visitors encouraging paranoid speculation, the adulterous duo commit to an ever-more elaborate latticework of lies and misdirection to avoid taking responsibility for making Carlos a cuckold. Extraterrestrial isn't as tightly plotted as Time Crimes – a running subplot with an inept and irritable ersatz TV reporter, while important to the story, becomes bloated past the point of effectiveness – but refreshing honesty about the bad behaviour of generally decent people and astute observations about obsession signify a thoughtful filmmaker more than capable of creating intelligent, darkly comic dramatic mysteries within strict budgetary limitations. In addition to the aforementioned short, there are three other smartly conceived shorts from earlier in Vigalondo's career, mostly dealing with various combinations of how relationship dynamics pertain to perceptions of reality through the filter of science fiction, and a "Making Of" that showcases more of Vigalondo's quirky honesty and sense of humour. (eOne)