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Wild At Heart: The Films of Julio Medem

While his name is not yet as recognizable as that of his compatriot Pedro Almodóvar, director Julio Medem has steadily garnered a reputation as one the central figures in Spanish film today—more specifically, in the thriving Basque cinema that is too little seen in the United States. With only four full-length films completed to date (a fifth, Lucia y el sexo is currently being edited), the forty-two-year-old Medem has proved himself a virtuoso stylist whose obsessively explored themes of love, death, nature, and accident have prompted comparisons of his work to that of Borges and Buñuel, David Lynch and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Working from a magical-realist perspective, Medem’s films trace an ongoing fascination with the subconscious, which he treats in a unique juggling of the playful and the tragic. Noted for their meticulous framing and radical juxtapositions of time, place, and perspective, Medem’s films are rife with cinematic imagination and energy and signal the emergence of a major new talent.

For their help and support in bringing the films of Julio Medem to Boston we wish to thank Juan Romero de Terreros of the Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C., the Filmoteca of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ricardo Peidró, Consul General of Spain in Boston.

April 6 (Friday) 7 pm

Cows (Vacas)

Directed by Julio Medem
Spain 1992, 35mm, color, 96 min.
With Emma Suárez, Carmelo Gómez, Ana Torrent
Spanish with English subtitles

Spanning more than sixty years of bitter rivalry between two Basque families, Julio Medem’s directorial debut immediately set itself apart from that staple of Spanish cinema, the epic historical melodrama. Full of visual flamboyance and employing a rapid, elliptical style, Cows explores issues of national and cultural identity as it sardonically draws attention to its own recycling of stereotypes. Throughout it all—as the feuding families repeat the same mistakes across three generations—are the "vacas," the cows of the title, whose immutable presence bears silent witness to the passage of time and the succession of events.

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January 5 (Friday) 9:15 pm
January 6 (Saturday) 6:30 pm

The Red Squirrel (La Ardilla Roja)

April 6 (Friday) 9 pm
April 8 (Sunday) 9 pm

A hybrid mixture of thriller, comedy, melodrama, and love story, The Red Squirrel focuses on the relationship between a young man and a female amnesiac he refashions as his lover. Jota, a washed-up rock singer on the brink of suicide, witnesses a motorcycle accident and discovers its victim: a young woman, physically unharmed but without memory or identity papers. Improvising wildly, Jota absconds with the girl by pretending to be her lover and attempts to create a fictitious life for her. Weaving a tapestry both humorous and dark, Medem addresses psycho-sexual power plays, the nature of identity, lies, and surprises in this strange romantic mystery, forever flying off in new and unexpected directions.

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April 7 (Saturday) 7 pm
April 8 (Sunday) 7 pm

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Los Amantes de Círculo Polar)

Directed by Julio Medem
Spain/France 1998, 35mm, color, 108 min.
With Fele Martínez, Najwa Nimri, Nancho Novo
Spanish with English subtitles

A romantic epic that not only embraces coincidence as a motif but celebrates it, Lovers of the Arctic Circle follows a seventeen-year journey through the lives of Otto and Ana. They meet first as children, but their budding relationship takes a turn toward the taboo when Otto’s single father and Ana’s single mother decide to get married. Ignoring this minor societal obstacle, Otto and Ana continue their clandestine relationship until circumstances begin to pull them apart. Deploying subtle shifts in time and space that recall the early work of Alain Resnais, Medem nonetheless addresses themes and ambience that are Spanish to the core as he charts the crisscrossing destinies of these protagonists with passion and lyricism.

April 7 (Saturday) 9 pm
April 10 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Tierra (Earth)

Directed by Julio Medem
Spain 1996, 35mm scope, color, 125 min.
With Carmelo Gómez, Emma Suárez, Silke Klein
Spanish with English subtitles

A bug fumigator with schizophrenic tendencies, Angel is hired to clear up the wood lice infecting a wine-growing district. Believing himself to be half-human, half-divine, and governed by heavenly instructions only he hears, Angel encounters two women of wildly opposing character. Loving them both, he must finally choose between his two states of being and face up to the terrible possibility that instead of divine, he may be simply insane. In a nominally realist, rural setting, Medem creates an atmosphere of fantasy and poetry in which wild boars are attracted by female smells and widowers search for their dead, departed lovers among the stars. Against this magical backdrop, Medem explores an unusual man’s request for transcendence, his search for an elusive state of calm and inner peace.

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