The multiple award-winning Cria cuervos (1976) had a highly successful run in Seattle when I was a young film goer, when it was distributed under the alternate title Cria!
It haunted me long after but I only recently got a chance to see it anew, & it holds up perfectly as a timeless classic.
It's greatness is not in it's alleged parable of the Franco regime, let alone in the crazed impression some few have had of it as a tale of feminist rebellion against patriarchy.
It's richness has permitted politicos of sundry stripes impose, imagine, or tease out hidden meanings. But all it needs is its literal story of the lives of three sisters over their summer vacation.
Paulina, Maite & Ana (Monica Randall, Florinda Chico & starring Ana Torrent) are orphaned of their mother (Geraldine Chaplin, who also plays Ana grown up).
Ana blames their unfaithful, inattentive father (Hector Alterio) for causing her mother's death, so has poisoned him; or, rather, has every reason to believe she successfully did so, though in fact he died of a heart attack.
This makes for a wickedly strange character because Ana is as innocent & lovely a child as can be imagined, & yet so far as she knows, she murdered her own father, & never experiences a moment's remorse.
The girls end up with their aunt (Mirta Miller), who means well but is a little harsh, & one can't help but wonder if Ana might again pursue murder as an acceptable means of satisfaction.
As a magic realist film, the imagery & structure plays with the idea of time & perception in ways that might or might not be supernatural.
Ana is regularly visited by the ghost of her saintly mother. But she may be hallucinating, dreaming, pretending, or only remembering. It's a film that does not consistently distinguish between memory, dream, & illusion; or between cinematic flashback or ghostly reenactment.
Ana always looks haunted by right of her enormous liquid eyes that bring her dangerously close to looking like a Keane painting of an orphaned waif.
She's a bizarrely beautiful little girl who would grow up to be a much more normatively beautiful young actress & continue a film career with considerable success, a major star in the Spanish-speaking world & deserves to be.
And right from the start with such childhood roles as Cria Cuervos & Spirit of the Beehive, she was either a very great little actor, or just so adored by the camera that she need only be quiet & gaze in order to imply worlds of emotion.
Ana & her mother's ghost or memory command the movie; all other performances are secondary. Ana experiences everything from the perfect love of her beautiful mother, to outright horror -- such as of her mother's painful screaming death probably from ovarian cancer -- to vengeful plots.
She plotted first against her father for both real & imagined wrongs, & later of her aunty since Ana continues to live with the belief that she can take any life she pleases without repercussion to herself.
The story takes place over a single summer during school vacation, & is like the weirdest of all "what I did on my summer vacation" stories.
Simple banal moments of the girls' playing together, listening & dancing to their little record player, playing house or doing crafts together, all this has poetry to it so that it is one of the best "sisters" movies ever made.
Cria Cuerovos would've been a fine film without the higher artistic gamesmanship the script & editing additionally express. And it all ends so quietly, so firmly, with school back in session, & the girls marching almost like soldiers back into the real world, it was all truly like a cinamatic poem.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl