Mama Turns 100 (Carlos Saura / Spain-France, 1979):
(Mamá Cumple Cien Años)

Lightness doesn't come easily to Carlos Saura, comedy even post-Franco will feature vengeful dissonance. Ana the governess (Geraldine Chaplin) is resurrected to visit the family responsible for her demise in Ana and the Wolves, she's welcomed with hugs and kisses on the eve of Mama's (Rafaela Aparicio) centennial birthday. Chaplin ponders the passage of six years before a mirror, her husband (Norman Briski) looks down from the balcony and an orange hanglider fills the screen, manned by the dotty uncle (Fernando Fernández Gómez) and crashed before quite taking flight, all punctuated by Schubert. The clan also includes frigid daughter-in-law Charo Soriano, absent son José Vivó (magically summoned to supper in a casual Ordet spoof) and prematurely conniving granddaughter Ángeles Torres; Mama is vigorously querulous but her relatives have decided she has lived long enough, besides they need her dead to split the property. The acerbic mood is that of Cría Cuervos and Garden of the Delights, sad-eyed despite the jesting Saura stages in elaborate daisy-chains -- Chaplin and Briski share a bed, she hogs the covers and literally kicks him out in another overhead shot, his fall knocks water from a jar into his slipper (poured back into a glass, accordingly) and sends him into horny niece Amparo Muñoz's crimson-walled bedroom. The military lunatic from the first film is wept over as a "good son," another acrid note is rung as the family opens costume chests in the attic and play dress-up: the wee daughter (Elisa Nandi) ecstatically sniffs mothballs while Soriano and Muñoz fight over a revealing slip, Vivó savors the show from behind a dilapidated confessional. "What a future awaits you," it is sighted to the young, yet Saura suggests a strangely hopeful discharge in the foregrounding of the characters' duplicitous charades -- a portrait of familial resilience is uncynically fashioned in the final, receding tracking shot, even if the traps around the mansion are reminders that Ana is still among the wolves. With Rita Maiden, and Monique Ciron.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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