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D'A 2024

Review: To Laugh, to Sing, Perchance to Cry


- Catalan director Marc Ferrer returns with a daring and moving queer melodramatic comedy

Review: To Laugh, to Sing, Perchance to Cry
Toñi Vargas in To Laugh, to Sing, Perchance to Cry

"Well, I have to tell you that, what you said before about the National ID card, when I applied for it about eight years ago, I remember well that I had a load of problems with it. I had to be incredibly patient and even when I was at the court administration, the person who attended me asked me for the vaginoplasty operation document. And at the time I thought, God, ma’am I don't think you really understand how this all works. I've brought you a psychological report, which you don't really need, because I'm saner than you are." This is how To Laugh, to Sing, Perchance to Cry begins, the new film from Marc Ferre. The director returns for yet another year to Barcelona's D’A Film Festival with a cross between comedy, melodrama and musical with nods to Fassbinder, Almodóvar and Kaurismäki.

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A trans woman (Toñi Vargas) and an undocumented immigrant (Lahcen Ouchad) fall in love in Barcelona's Poble Sec neighbourhood. In the midst of this love affair, the days go by: looking for a job, paying the rent, parties, dances, nosy neighbours, problems to solve, time with friends, other lovers; life, with its joys and hardships, thrills and devastations. From its plot, Marc Ferrer's latest film could be another variation on the classic "boy-meets-girl", a queer and proletarian romantic comedy inspired by underground or counter-current cinema classics (or those that once were). However, as is often the case with the Catalan director's films, the film also goes much further than expected. Without hiding his references, and with daring and imagination, Ferrer builds a universe of his own. The film has its own personality, told with simplicity and emotion, full of magic, melancholy and beauty.

Love, heartbreak, desire, bitterness, loneliness, poverty, hope, people searching for something, something better, something to hold on to, something to tell. All this is very present in this film about characters adrift in a city that expels them. Marc Ferrer knows how to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, what happens when nothing seems to happen, and, in the shadowy space of everyday life, to tell what lies behind his characters, their encounters and misunderstandings, their sadness and joys, to portray the soul of a time and a place. One of the best things about the film is the dignity, delicacy and sense of humour with which the director manages to represent these characters. The humanity, irony and grace with which he narrates their life stories, their miseries and illusions, leaving us with images and phrases to remember, such as the hilarious dialogue that opens the film or when a certain policeman says "I'm a policeman, but I don't torture or anything" or "Listen, I'm going, I'm reading Proust and every day is thirty pages or I won't finish it."

"There are loves that last a lifetime. I don't know if it will last. Even if I'm not right to love you...". The musical leitmotif that runs throughout and gives it its title, is written by Ferrer himself and performed by Adrià Arbona. To Laugh, to Sing, Perchance to Cry succeeds in being what it sets out to be, an amusing parody, without moralising or edifying pretensions, of the best and the worst of ourselves, of classism, racism and transphobia, of the onslaught of love and heartbreak, of a city on the margins. A film as hilarious as it is beautiful that can move you with humour and tenderness.

To Laugh, to Sing, Perchance to Cry is produced by Películas Inmundas.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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