CARRETERAS SECUNDARIAS won many awards in 1997 when it was released in Spain, including some Goyas. Surprisingly it never made an impression in theatres there. But this is one of those sleeper movies that should be viewed by everyone who not only enjoys a good story well told, but also those who want to understand Spain in the final days of Franco's rule. There is much to be said about the delicacy in which director Emilio Martinez Lazaro has adapted the novel by Ignacio Martinez di Pison, electing to underplay the class differences between those born to wealth and the poor people of Spain: in this film less is said and more is felt.
Lozano (a brilliant performance by Antonio Resines) leads a gypsy life with his son Felipe (anther feather in Fernando Ramallo's cap and resume) since the death of his wife, apparently a woman his wealthy family never approved of and hence disinherited Lozano. The two try to keep up appearances of having 'class' when in effect they are destitute. Lozano's pride never falters as he sees himself as an Impresario to Estrella (Miriam Diaz Aroca of 'Belle Epoque'), a would-be opera singer who finally leaves Lozano for another man who promises a better career. Disillusioned, Lozano and Felipe hit the road and encounter a beauty named Paquita (Maribel Verdu whose many screen credits include 'Goya in Bordeaux', 'Belle Epoque') who herself is poor but understands survival. The three of them take off on money making schemes and a gypsy life that has its hilarious moments as well as moments of great tenderness. Along the way Felipe discovers passion, coming of age, and his first introduction to women through his sharing the love-generous Paquita with his father. Felipe encounters more of life in a student uprising against Franco's regime, falls in love with the daughter of an American soldier based in Zaragoza, and tastes the reality of becoming a man without direction, career, or ancestry. One of the trio's con games finally catches up with them and Lozano is jailed. The ending is a wonderful surprise and provides one of the more beautiful father/son relationship explorations on film. The photography is magnificent and if the musical score by Roque Banos is a bit overly grand, blame is on appropriation from Ravel et al! This is a terrific film and deserves as much attention in this country as it garnered in Spain. In Spanish with English subtitles.