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on 12 July 2017
I'm working my way through a book called 1001 movies you must see before....
Anyway, this was No 650.
There are obviously some wonderful classic films in there and I've discovered some absolute gems (especially Kurosawa) but in among the good stuff there's quite a bit of pretentious dross. This goes into that category.
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on 21 September 2001
'Cria Cuervos' is set as Franco's dictatorship regime is coming to a close and democracy, for Spain and its people, is so near yet so far. The audience watches the film through the eyes of Ana, a truly troubled child growing up in Madrid. This film focuses on the her plight and tribulations as she is brought up, along with her two sisters, by her strict aunt and mute grandmother after she loses her mother and then her father. In different ways she has to witness the deaths of both parents - her darling mother's death is painfully slow and in deep contrast her father's death is frighteningly fast. Thanks to flashback technique the audience slowly comes to understand why her loss hits her so deeply and why she is so angry. We truly sympathise with this passionate and affected child. Carlos Saura,the director, through his depiction of Ana and the other, mainly female, characters in the film, captures the mood of Spain and its people at this time beautifully. Excellent.
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on 10 December 2004
This film is beautiful and unique, with some very dark undercurrents which refer back to the Spanish Civil War. There are some great performances from Ana Torent at a very young age and Geraldine Chaplin is fantastic as the young, ill and disillusioned mother of three girls who are all charming and unaffected. The music is also very reminiscent of different periods in Spanish history. In general the film had a profound effect on me and should not be missed if you have an interest in Spain.
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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2010
Ana Torrent(the dark-eyed beauty from The Spirit if the Beehive) portrays the disturbed 8 year old Ana,living in Madrid with her two sisters,mourning the death of her mother whom she conjures as a ghost.The children are in their summer vacations. Cria Cuervos is about the wounded feminine psyche that is Spain.The male patriarchy of Franco's Spain is represented by Ana's father,who was a General in Franco's army, and like Franco is about to die.Women in Catholic Spain have been repressed,subdued,stereo-typed.Ana's mother(Chaplin) has had to give up a career as a pianist to become a housewife in a loveless marriage,whose husband,a philanderer, refuses to understand her depression or talk to her.The film is about the ghosts of memory,the psychological interpenetration of the past,present and future,reality and fantasy,in Ana's head.Her aunty is responsible for the sister's care.

Porque te vas,the juvenile pop song sung by Jeannette, which expresses Ana's rebellion,is in fact an ode to lost loves, abandoned hopes. For the singer,even the sun shining on a city window is a sign that her lover must soon leave. The present may thus prove as depressing as the past.For Ana,the past is not past,we see her interacting with her dead mother as if she is still alive.When the sisters play dress-up,it is to expertly recreate the bitter arguments of their dead parents.Her interactions with her mother(Geraldine Chaplin),is fantasised by the grieving child.What will become of Spain with Franco's death(indirectly alluded to in Porque te vas)?Spain has been ruled by a fascist military junta since 1939, for 36 years Spain has been under tight social control.Saura shows the intimacy that the living and dead cohabit especially when fragile psyches are frozen in time by trauma.Although this was not made as a political film, Saura had made critiques of Franco in previous films, but had not been censored in this one and had total artistic control. The title refers to the baleful effects of Franco's Fascist regime on children.Trauma is linked to repression.Their auntie doesn't want to discuss their parents with them,but they learn more from fleshly housekeeper Rosa(e.g. when the war ended).The girls brandish the guns they say their father has left them(Ana will take aim at her hated aunt),a legacy of the violence bequeathed from one generation to another from guilty,forgetful adults to uncomprehending children.Little Ana inherits her father's dark side, believing she has incurred her father's death or poisoned her aunty with drinks of poison,she believes she has power over life and death. She plays a game of hide and seek with her sisters,asks them to be dead,then brings them back to life.This bad education is the meaning of the title,from a Spanish proverb:"Raise ravens and they'll peck out your eyes." But in reality the young have been doomed by their parents' generation to live in an anachronistic world of lies and illusion.Ana's mother on her death bed says its all lies,meaning also that there's no after-life,no God,nothing.

The house is a metaphor of the regime, shut off behind barriers,the venetian blinds mimic prison bars,its deathly quiet broken by noisy shots of the street outside, with its lurid posters for consumer goods and oppressively heavy traffic.Saura suggests that memories may be repressed,but, like the inescapable sounds of the city,they will return as ghosts,haunting all Spaniards as they do the characters in Cria Cuervos. With little guidance and supervision, the children create an insular world that reflects the conflict, pain, and uncertainty of the enigmatic and impenetrable adult world around them.They escape from patriarchy in the scene where the girls dance together.The girls accept or reject the roles imposed on them.The girls thus submit to having their hair combed but flatly refuse to eat decorously.The girls look ahead to an uncertain future in which they may not have the control they'd like over their destinies.Chaplin's grown-up Ana says:"I remember childhood as an interminably long and sad time." But as she loaths it she also longs for it too.The adult Ana is played by the same actress as her mother,because she is condemmed to repeat her mother's mistakes,locked in a repetition compulsion.

She recalls her childhood animosity to her callous,philandering father,blaming him for her mother's slow illness and death.Childhood, the ghost story she tries to understand, it being a time of radical invincibility, interminable ,sad,full of potency.Saura through the cinematography aligns us with the little girl's point of view,using subjective shots as she contemplates her dead father and adulteries.By juxtaposing low angle medium shots(the children's perspective)with fluid crane shots of a bird's-eye view there is an incongruous unity of child naivete with an ominous sense of instinctive cruelty,a tragic and unresolved legacy of a lost and misguided childhood.Irene's dream of her kidnapping asks if they are being educated for a world that no longer exists?Walking in their Catholic uniforms, will it lead to a world of openness or closure,the fusion of haunted past,and indeterminate nation emerging from the shadows?.Chaplin is a revelation playing as she does a figment of a child's memory.Unforgettable.Extras include a 1 hour life of Saura,interviews with Chaplin and Torrent.
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on 22 April 2013
Five stars for this film about three young orphaned girls and their relationships with their mother, aunt, nanny and grandma. It shifts seamlessly back and forth in time and therefore would reward a second viewing. You would fall in love with little Ana Torrent's big dark eyes if nothing else. Geraldine Chaplin plays mother but is not on screen most of the time. Director Carlos Saura displays his usual certainty and flair. Prospective buyers of this particular DVD version of the film (Italian import on the San Paulo label, 2009) please note that the film is in Spanish language with optional Spanish or Italian subtitles. THERE ARE NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES ON THIS DVD.
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