June 03, 2007

Mirindas Asesinas (1991)

The beginning of the decade of the 90s saw the rise of a whole new generation of directors in Spain, who through the last decade of the 20th Century would redefine Spaniard cinema and demonstrate that there was more in their country than Pedro Almodóvar's melodramas. Among that new generation of filmmakers (that also included names like Alejandro Amenábar, Enrique Urbizu and Julio Médem in its ranks) was a young comic book writer from Bilbao named Álex De la Iglesia, who after working in the art direction department of Urbizu's 1991 comedy "Todo Por la Pasta", decided to focus his career on film. His first movie, the short film "Mirindas Asesinas" (Literally "Killer Mirindas"), would not only be his first work as a director, but also his first collaboration with writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría, marking the debut of one of the most creative teams in modern Spaniard cinema.

The story of "Mirindas Asesinas" is set in a bar where a man (Saturnino García) is relaxing as usual after a hard day of work. There is a storm outside, and suddenly, a strange looking short man enters the establishment (Alex Angulo) and sits by the bar. Nervously, the strange man asks the bartender (José Antonio Álvarez) to give him a Mirinda (a popular orange flavored soft drink), which the bartender serves him immediately. After drinking his glass, the man stands up and prepares to leave, but the bartender stops him and demands to be paid. The man refuses to pay and states that he asked the barman to "give him" the drink, not to "sell him" one, so he takes out an enormous machine gun and brutally kills the bartender. After the homicide, he looks towards our hero, who watched the whole scene in panic, and asks him politely "give me a Mirinda". And that's just the beginning of his torture.

Written by both Guerricaechevarría and De la Iglesia, "Mirindas Asesinas" is very funny short film that playfully mixes horror, suspense and comedy in a story that already shows the duo's famous acid black humor at its fullest potential. While simple in its construction, the writers use the plot to play with the conventions of movies about serial killers, as in this case, the psychotic murderer is a diminutive man (clearly inspired in the figure of Woody Allen) who enjoys to murder or psychologically torture people in order to get his beloved Mirindas. Wild, absurd and anarchic, the black humor in "Mirindas Asesinas" goes certainly over the top in an almost comic book style; but in the end, it's that irreverent Grand Guignol style of storytelling what gives the film its charm and forecasts the writers future work.

In "Mirindas Asesinas", director De la Iglesia already shows a pretty good eye for visual compositions; no doubt a result of his years of working in the comic book industry of his country. The black and white cinematography (by Kiko De la Rica) is very good, and together with the electronic organ music that serves as score gives the movie a very atmospheric 60s look that makes a funny contrast with the events depicted on screen. While not a perfect movie, "Mirindas Asesinas" is very well constructed and has a nice pace; and even when the mix of genres may not be entirely successful, it's hard not to fall under the movie's charm. With a touch of camp that spices up the black comedy, this wildly fun short film feels like a bizarre kitsch homage to Spaniard cinema and the horror genre in general.

The work done by the actors is simply excellent, with every member of the small cast delivering a great performance in their small roles. In the main role, Álex Angulo (who would become a regular collaborator of De la Iglesia) plays the unlikely psychotic "Tubular Killer", in a remarkable performance that shows his natural talent for comedy and shows that even at this early stage his career already had a lot of potential. As our traumatized hero (funnily labeled "poor devil"), Saturnino García is simply delightful, as while even when his character is little more than a caricature, he never fails to make his character interesting and sympathetic. As written above, the rest of the cast is very good, although it's worth to point out that Ramón Barea is specially funny in his take of familiar Spanish stereotype.

For a debut, "Mirindas Asesinas" is remarkably good, and while obviously it doesn't compare to De la Iglesia's posterior work, it has a lot of what has made his movies enjoyable through his career. Despite some problems with the sound and fact that its over the top humor may not be for everyone, "Mirindas Asesinas" is an excellent debut that not only fans of De la Iglesia will be able to appreciate, as its simple yet witty brand of comedy never fails to be entertaining despite its darkness. Two years after making this, Guerricaechevarría and De la Iglesia would make the jump to feature length films with the indie classic "Acción Mutante", and another two years after that the duo would get international acclaim with "El Dia De la Bestia". and to think that all this came thanks to a Mirinda.


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