When poker and Russian roulette hit the screens
by Vitor Pinto
"A coming of age tale about friendship and lust for life" is how Catalan director Ventura Pons describes his latest film, La vida abismal, an Els Films de la Rambla production that Filmax is releasing today in local theatres.
Based on a novel by Ferran Torrent, La vida abismal is set in the Franquist Spain of the 1970s and tells the story of Ferran (José Sospreda), a 21 year-old man whose life radically changes as soon as a professional poker player named "El Chino" introduces him to the gambling underworld.
Newcomer Sospreda shares the screen with Shooting Star Oscar Jaenada, who describes his character El Chino as a man "who had won everything and ends up keeping nothing". For Pons, a confessed fan of the actor’s Goya-winning performance in Camarón, Jaenada was the ideal actor for the part: "He brings so much authenticity to it that you no longer know who is the actor and who is the character."
According to the director, illegal gambling was a "vehicle to access a period" of Spain’s history, describing Ferrán's character as someone "disoriented when it comes to Franquism's official truths, which were, actually, huge lies". El Chino will then show Ferrán "an alternative lifestyle, in which passion is the only things that really matter".
Pons' approach to illegal gambling is, however, definitely less radical (and far more mainstream oriented) than Gela Babluani's in his praised feature debut 13 (Tzameti) [+see also:
interview: Fanny Saadi
interview: Gela Babluani
film profile] (see Focus), where men literally gamble each other’s lives.
The French-Georgian film – released by indie distribution company Notro Films – offers a darker tone to a weekend in whose other European releases are Jaume Mateu Adrover's Fuerte Apache (distributed by Alta Films) and the biopic Klimt [+see also:
film profile], directed by Chile-born director Raoul Ruiz (Eurocine Films).
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