Spain, 1961, 85 min, Dir. Luis García Berlanga, Not Rated, Spanish with English subtitles, Janus Films
"Berlanga's greatest masterpiece lights up the screen not only as an impeccable comedy of manners but as a devastating social portrait as well." – Miguel Angel Palomo, El País
Luis García Berlanga´s first collaboration with screenwriter Rafael Azcona was a jet-black comedy originally titled Sit a Poor Person at Your Table before the film ran afoul of the censors. Today it is widely regarded as one of Spain’s greatest films. Plácido González, played by the great Catalan comedian Cassen, sweats bullets trying to make the monthly payment on his motor tricycle and protect his means of support - just as the bank is about to close for the holidays. A window of opportunity opens when he is recruited by Quintanilla (José Luis López Vázquez) to participate in the above-mentioned charity, whereby a bevy of local society women take in beggars and other unfortunates home for Christmas dinner. Soon, the ladies discover more about the subjects of their largesse than they’d like to know. Favoring long takes and handling a large ensemble as deftly as Jean Renoir, Berlanga takes aim at the false piety on display, as acts of generosity are revealed to be little more than events on a social calendar. Hilarious situations and unexpected reversals abound, yet all the laughter can’t cover up the overriding outrage that courses through the film, right down to its closing carol: “Mother, there’s a child at the door, freezing from the cold / Tell him to come in and get warm / Because no shelter is given in this land / forever and ever, to our fellow man.” Decades ahead of Bad Santa as a different kind of Christmas movie, Plácido was never released in the U.S. in spite of being nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
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