04 September, 2009

Princesas (2005)

Tough tricks

Official Selection, European Film Awards 2006

Writer-director:Fernando León de Aranoa (Los lunes al sol (2002), Caminantes (2001)) here turns his gaze towards a world far removed from that of Pretty Woman (1990) - the grubby, frequently sickening lives inhabited by sex workers, where hope is a truly precious commodity, a different currency from the prices that women haggle for their own bodies.

Set on the mean streets of Madrid, the 'princesses' of the title are Caye (Candela Peña) and Zulema (Micaela Nevárez in a striking first role), two prostitutes drawn together in friendship, love even, as they battle against the worst that modern life can throw at them - the chemistry etched between the two young women - Spanish and Dominican - marks this as very much more than another tale of 'tarts with hearts'.

One begins to feel, very quickly, for their situation, their loves, desires and hopes. Both are desperate to quit the life - Caye believes she has found the man for her life, Manuel (Luis Callejo) while Zulema simply wants to get back to her child in the Dominican Republic.

Despite its obviously hard-edged nature, León de Aranoa treats the subject matter with real delicacy and sensitivity, even if the music, by Manu Chao and Gato Pérez, is ocassionally a little excessive, and would have benefited from more of the subtlety on display elsewhere. In addition, Ramiro Civita's hand-held photography (while sometimes deliberately chaotic) is superb, particularly in the close-ups, which bring out the very essence of the characters' torments.

A dark look at the realities of 'street life'.

Awards: Click here for details.

113 mins. In Spanish.

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