Tiovivo c. 1950 (2004)
Director: José Luis Garci
Starring: María Adánez, Francisco Algora (Povedano), Ángel de Andrés López (Alcisco), María Asquerino (Justa), Aurora Bautista (Anunciada), Antonio Dechent (José Pedro), Ana Fernández (Teresita), Eduardo Gómez (Pepito), Ricardo Gómez (Alcisquito), Agustín González (Ramón), Fernando Guillén Cuervo (Higinio), Carlos Hipólito (Liebre), Javivi (Zamuelle), María Kosti (Julia), Alfredo Landa (Eusebio), Ramón Langa (Don Natalio), Carlos LarraZaga (Marcelino), Francis Lorenzo (Paco), Mabel Lozano (Profesora academia), Manuel Lozano (Quique), Luisa Martín (Laurita), Blanca Oteyza (Pola), Andrés Pajares (Romualdo), Elsa Pataky (Balbina), Sergio Peris-Mencheta (Joven detenido), Santiago Ramos (Ireneo), Miguel Rellán (Santi), Beatriz Rico (Mujer de Ireneo), Jorge Roelas (Montesinos), Tina Sáinz (Rufi), Miguel Ángel Solá (Hugo), Andrea Tenuta (Perlita).
Nominated for six Goya Awards, it won for Best Production Design.
Amidst life in post-Civil War Madrid, the city offers entertainment, hope and love, in spite of the many restrictions.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. Curse words spelled out.
There are many characters in the film and many are interrelated to each other. The main way they are interrelated is through the Banco Occidental de Credito y Ahorro (Western Bank of Savings and Credit). They work for the bank, are a customer of the bank or a client of the bank. But you only learn this as you go through the movie. Don Ireneo is the bank manager; Montesinos is the bank porter; Estevez is the bank's champion calculator of sums of numbers.
Monte (short for Montesinos) comes in to work and says hello to Estevez, who says that he is in training for a duel against a bank teller with a calculator. A woman opens her dance academy. Monte tells Estevez that he has to help him. He has got a big problem. At the local restaurant three men discuss their plans for Christmas Eve. They reminisce about the Christmases of the past. They agree that they had better Christmases then; not now.
Don Ireneo's wife wishes him a happy birthday before he goes to work. An old lady named Anunciada listens as the rent collector bangs on her door. The bald, old and portly Don Porfirio is the owner of the apartment building. Anunciada pretends that she is not at home.
An old man named Eusebio (his wife is Rufi) works with his colleagues Romualdo and a young fellow. Eusebio says that he just does not understand young people today. They are always in a hurry. He then turns to the young fellow and says he should be working. Romualdo tells Eusebio that he should be more optimistic and less negative. He remembers his 23 year old son who was killed during the Spanish Civil War. He says: "Fucking war!"
The bank is very busy. Anunciada is there as a customer. Don Ireneo calls in porter Monte to reiterate that he wants his office aired out every night. He says that the workers work and they smell of sweat. He wants the smell gone by the time he comes to work in the morning. Anunciada deposits a small amount of money into her bank account.
A man named Higinio wants to use the phone in the hall of his apartment building. He has to ask Dorita for permission. She says it's o.k. He speaks on the phone with José Pedro Cervantes, a performer in a night club. Higinio tells José Pedro that they will meet at 11 o'clock. Higinio then calls Vicente and says that José Pedro will perform as a bull fighter in the club. Vicente needs some penicillin for his sick boy. Higinio tells him to go to Chicote's Bar at 1 p.m. and ask for a man named Fermin. He'll arrange for the penicillin. As Higinio finishes his calls Dorita shouts: "That's two calls!"
At night Higinio returns to his apartment. His wife Pola tells him that his father called. They have not pardoned his brother. He will be executed next month.
Movie producer Hugo and his actress wife Perla are staying in a hotel. She asks her husband if he (Samueye) will get the money to finance the movie. At the local restaurant the gopher Pepito is sent by a customer on an errand. Three older men discuss the old versus the new Madrid. The optimist says that Madrid is becoming like New York, New York, USA. Another fellow says it is more like Caracas, Venezuela. Eusebio and Romualdo work on cars in their shop. A "banned" writer named Ricardo learns to dance the tango with the help of the brother and sister owners of the dance studio.
A young woman named Balbina, daughter of Eusebio and Rufi, works at the ticket booth in the subway. She meets with her fellow named Honorio. She invites him to dinner with her father and mother, because they want to meet him. He says he can't go because he has to travel on business. She asks him: "Do you love me?" He answers: "Of, course." She looks upsets and Honorio asks her if she is pregnant. No is the answer. She thinks it's her nerves. He leaves and she goes back to work at the booth.
An employee of the bank, Mr. Poyatos talks with the sister-owner of the dance academy. He is getting married. Actually this is his second marriage. His first wife's brother was killed at the battle of the Ebro. For this second marriage he desperately needs dance lessons so he can dance at the wedding with his new wife.
At the local restaurant, some Gestapo-like men come to arrest a young fellow. Everyone looks at the three men together. They make the fellow come with them, even though they refuse to say anything about what he has done. On his way out the young man asks the waiter Paco to take care of his dog while he is away. After the three men leave the older hostess says out loud for the benefit of the table discussing the merits of Madrid: Madrid is not New York or Caracas, but Moscow.
Samueye is late and Perla is very angry. After an hour he finally shows up. They talk.
Anunciada goes to church to see Father Fulgencio. The priest complains to her that everyone's becoming a capitalist these days. And no one wants to contribute to the church. Anunciada gives him the collection money gathered from the parishioners. Father complains that it so very little money. He tells her to encourage the parishioners to give more next time. Anunciada says that Father should know that Spain is becoming atheist.
Vicente asks Fermin for the penicillin. Hugo and Perla are in the same restaurant. They talk about Spanish cinema with Samueye awho says that Spanish cinema is always in crisis.
In an eating room in the bank Monte talks with three of his friends. Another guy comes in and tells them that Poyatos is getting married. He asks the four fellows for contributions to get the man a wedding gift. Monte tells his buddies that he is in trouble. He told his relatives that he was the director of the bank, not the porter. And now they are coming to visit him at the bank itself.
Hugo tells Samueye hat he might back the film idea. Samueye is thrilled and tells the couple that he is going to take them sight-seeing. At his apartment building, Paco the waiter receives a phone call from Cifesa Films. The cleaning lady will give him the message.
Paco the waiter in the local restaurant talks with Don Porfirio. He likes to play the lottery. After Paco leaves, the man writes a letter to Rosalia saying that he misses her.
Vicente comes to talk with entertainment agent Don Marcelino. He gives the man a joke he wrote and receives 200 pesetas, to be followed by 200 more if they actually use the joke. Don Marcelino tells Vicente to send the girls in as he leaves. Four chorus girls come in and he studies their outfits. He has Katia stay after the other three are dismissed. He is having an affair with her and she is mad that she did not see him the previous night. He assures her that they will meet later.
Hugo, Perla and Samueye come into the bank to talk about the script and the money loan with Don Ireneo. Ireneo knows that Hugo has made movies in Argentina and Mexico. And he loves the work of actress Perla. Mr. Poyatos comes in for a minute to say that he has to go to the doctor (even though he is really going to go to dance class). Don Ireneo gives his permission. Ireneo has quite a few criticisms of the script. This makes Perla very impatient and angry. He suggests a few changes in the script. Mainly he wants the woman and the priest punished for their affair. Samueye wants to yell at the banker, but Hugo sweet talks him instead. Hugo agrees to make some of the changes and butters up Ireneo with a multitude of compliments. Ireneo says that he himself should have been a director. They will get their loan.
Higinio scalps tickets for money. He talks with the pretty ticket saleswoman named Teresa who gave him the tickets. He tells her that he is tired of being arrested. He would like to run away with her and establish their own business together. Teresa is mostly concerned about her husband's drinking problem. Their little girl is getting scared of her father. Teresa cries. Higinio tries to cheer her up. The movie playing is "Gone with the Wind" dubbed into Spanish.
Anunciada pays a visit to Eusebio and his wife. Eusebio gets angry and balls her out. She always brings statutes of Portuguese virgins for the church. He asks, are there no Spanish virgins? If the church wants more donations, then they should get more statutes of Spanish virgins, not Portuguese.
A poet and a young woman admirer speak together. His second cousin is going to be married and he's going to the wedding.
Vicente is in the bathroom of the local restaurant taking orders for banned books. Pepito comes into the bathroom looking very suspicious as Vicente breaks from the man who was ordering the books. Vicente acts like nothing is going on.
The poet and his blonde admirer continue talking. His brother left for Brazil because of the war. There will be a Poetry Festival of the Catalonian Language in Exile in Brazil. He wants to win the poetry prize and the blonde will get half the prize money.
Estevez gets a shoulder massage from friend Asereno to help him relax and prepare him for the calculating contest. Ireneo gives 10 pesetas to Monte to bet on Estevez. But then he gives him another 10 pesetas to bet on the opposition, Arjonilla.
Balbina the booth woman is in typing class. The teacher speaks to her after and tells Balbina that her typing skills have been going down hill. She will never get the position at Inland Revenue if the trend continues. The teacher says that she is so talented and has pianist's hands. She holds her hands in hers. There is a definite hint of lesbianism on the part of the teacher.
Eusebio and Romualdo talk politics and touch on the Korean War. Eusebio says that 14 years before the West woke up to the true threat of communism, Franco pursued his anti-communist crusade. He adds that Franco is US President Harry Truman's most admired person. They speak on the telephone almost every day.
Antonio Miguel gives Dona Julia a Christmas present. She asks him how is business these days. He says his funeral business is just so-so. There are not as many deaths these days as in the past. (When the war was on.) Julia says she wants to be cremated.
Esteves will calculate the sum of a large group of numbers using just his head, while Arjonilla will use a calculator. Esteves loses the time amount by only two seconds. But he won the contest because his calculation was the correct one, while Arjonilla's figure was off by 27 pesetas. Esteves tells the assembled on-lookers that they should use their brains more often or else they will all be replaced by machines.
Eusebio and his wife Rufi talk with their daughter Balbina. They want her to bring her boyfriend over to meet them. She says he is not a boyfriend, but just a friend. Nevertheless, they still want him to come to dinner. Right now he is working, but he will be back before January 6. He is away on business selling biscuits.
Ireneo's pretty wife dresses in a sexy outfit and sings a sexy Happy Birthday to him in English. She opens her vest to expose her breasts to him.
Anunciada talks with the rent collector about making an arrangement to pay her rent.
Vicente is dressed in a bull fighter's outfit. Higinio comes out of a bedroom and tells him and another fellow to go get the taxis as they will be coming out soon. Then Higinio goes back into the bedroom. There Don Jose Pedro is getting into a bull fighter's outfit. Higinio asks him for a big favor. He does this because Jose Pedro was with Franco when he took Barcelona and therefore has a lot of influence. He starts to make a plea for the life of his brother who will be executed soon if nothing changes. And, no, his brother is not a communist; just an ass-hole says Higinio. The bull fighter tells Higinio to tell him the details later. Now he wants Higinio to describe the bulls he will face.
A Spanish censor tells Ricardo at the local restaurant that only his novel is going to be banned. He can still be on the radio and he can write under a pseudonym. But he should not make his hero an undesirable and the man should love his country and go to mass. The censor adds that one of the censors demanded that Ricardo be locked up. The man finishes by telling Ricardo to tell his wife Chuchi about his having helped him because she always says that her fascist cousin won't do anything for the family. Just before he leaves, he wants to mention one other thing. He has heard that Ricardo is learning how to tango. He says that lots of people think the tango is obscene. He asks why can't Ricardo learn a more "normal" dance.
The bull fighter Jose Pedro arrives with his retinue at the Florida Park night club. They go inside the club.
Anunciada looks at her heaps and heaps of money that she probably has been stealing from the church.
The owner/brother at the dance academy practices his tap dancing.
At the Florida Park night club the bull fighter pretends to fight a human bull. It seems ridiculous, but the audience is very enthusiastic and cheer on the act.
The poet reads his poetry. Monte and his friends plot out how he can solve his problem of dealing with his relatives.
Jose Pedro receives an enormous applause for his bull fighting act. They shout "Ole!" He has already stuck the pins in to the pretend bull's back packet. Now he gets a sword and sticks it into the back packet "killing" the pretend bull.
Perla says that Don Ireneo is mad as a hatter. She tells Hugo that if the film is a go, they could live in Spain. She could bring her mother back home. And her mother has relatives here. Hugo just says they will wait and see. He still has big dreams of Hollywood. Perla responds that they will only use him to fix up their mediocre work. She adds that they will appreciate him in Spain. Hugo says: Peron's over there, Franco over here. We'll change barracks. But on the other hand he has enough material for eight movies dealing with Spanish subjects. People were really hungry here and it still goes on.
Eusebio says to Rufi that if Honorio loves Balbina he would prefer for them (he and his wife) to win the lottery tomorrow.
Bullfighter Jose Pedro comes out of the night club to the applause of his admirers.
Anunciada is dead, probably from a blow on the head. The blood trickled down her face. All her heaps of money have been stolen.
We find out that Honorio is a priest. His real name is Natalio.
Paco the waiter calls the entertainment agent back. It looks like he might get a shot at the movies. But when he starts to recite a monologue over the phone, he is rejected. He is disgusted with his rejection and the way it was done.
Vicente's boy got his penicillin and now he is all better. There is no sign of fever at all.
The bank is busy again. Dona Julia is there. Estevez calls his boss Ireneo pretending to be a neighbor. He tells the boss that his wife was run over and is in the hospital. Ireneo picks up his coat and leaves the bank. Monte's friends get him ready to pretend to be the bank director. They dress him in better clothes and remove a framed picture on the boss's desk and substitute a picture of Monte in uniform. The three relatives arrive and Monte acts like a big shot and gets away with it.
Honorio in his priest uniform stops to speak to Balbina in the booth. She is shocked to see him in his clerical outfit. He tells her that when he first met her he knew he had chosen the wrong path in life, but he has to follow it. He leaves, leaving behind a crushed Balbina.
Eusebio talks to the young fellow at work. He says that wrestling is a farce, a circus. Romualdo hates to see the boy's dreams dashed and tells him that it's just that they do use some tricks in wrestling. He foolishly lets the fellow flip him onto his back. Romualdo doesn't get up and the young fellow gets back to work.
Vicente delivers the banned books to his customer. Pepito comes in again to break it up. Vicente shouts at Pepito: "It's not what you think!" Paco hides the dog of the arrested young man in the kitchen of the restaurant.
Eusebio talks with Romualdo about Honorio and his daughter. Samueye invites Hugo and Perla over to his place for Christmas Eve dinner. Perla gives the man a kiss.
Higinio receives a phone call. His brother has been executed. He goes back into his apartment and his wife tries to console him.
Monte's three relatives eat at the local restaurant. Later the relatives realize that the young boy with them stole a toy off the desk of Don Ireneo. Now they have to take it back to the bank.
The teacher gives Balbina a private typing test. Balbina has brought her performance back up to 320 words per minute. Again there are hints of lesbianism.
The sister and brother dance team dance together to a tune used in a Fred Astaire movie: "when we're out together dancing cheek to cheek." A nice end for a long movie.
"Those were very hard times, but seen from a distance, perhaps they were the most truly ours." Manueal Alcántara, c. 1950.
The movie was a bit too long. The last sentence of the movie, a quote from the author, seems a little misleading. I certainly would not have liked to have lived through Franco's Civil War and then his dictatorship. It doesn't sound like much fun to me. Fascism is no fun at all. In the summary of the film I high-lighted some of the very disturbing features of Spanish life with and under Franco. You can decide for yourself, but certainly there is no freedom of speech in a fascist dictatorship.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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