La Puta y La Ballena
(The Whore and the Whale)

Dutch subtitles. Warning: Contains nudity. Do not watch if you are allergic to naked people.

La Puta y La Ballena (The Whore and the Whale)
Made in: Spain, Argentina
Language: Spanish
Director: Luis Puenzo
Starring: Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Mercé Llorens, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Pep Munné, Miguel Ángel Solá
Year: 2004

Synopsis: Vera (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) is a writer who's diagnosed with breast cancer. She comes across some letters written by Emilio (Leonardo Sbaraglia), an Argentine man who was killed during the Spanish Civil War while fighting for the Republican side.

The letters detail a love affair between Emilio and Lola (Mercé Llorens), a chorus girl from Barcelona with a habit of getting naked a lot.

Becoming more and more obsessed with their story, Vera travels to Argentina to further uncover details of the tragic lovers. Along the way, she finds that her life bears a number of striking parallels with Lola's.

And like Lola, Vera finds frequent (and lame) excuses to get naked.

The Good: There's a pretty nice tango song included on the soundtrack. Also, the nature shots of Patagonia are beautiful.

The Bad: And that's about it.

La Puta y La Ballena is a boring, highly pretentious film full of contrived circumstances and melodrama. The nudity, which is as abundant as it is pointless, almost becomes embarrassing to watch after a while.

la puta y la ballena tango
And the tango dancing Borat look-alike quickly became a distraction, too

The characters played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón and Mercé Llorens pretty much go around having sex with all the other characters in every other scene (except the whale, probably because there might be laws against that sort of thing).

I guess all this is supposed to make the film daring, but it comes across like a series of jokes that repeatedly fall flat.

And the dialogue is pretty awful too. Sprinkled throughout every scene are what we're supposed to accept as deep, philosophical musings. But since they don't reference themes that actually have anything to do with the movie, it comes across as incoherent hipster-like BS. And there's a good two hours of that nonsense to get through.

The tango dancing wasn't too bad, I must admit, but director Luis Puenzo seems to reinforce the persistent and long discredited myth that tango was often danced in brothels during the 1940s. You'd think that, seeing that the film was made mostly in Argentina, that someone involved in the filmmaking process would have done their research.

But who's got time to do research when there's so much T & A to film?

La Puta y La Ballena is an overlong, self-important piece trying waaaaay too hard to be artistic and poignant. This is exactly the kind of foreign films that people would think of when they tell you they don't like watching foreign films.

(1 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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