Review: La Puta y La Bellena
3 / 5 Stars
This 2004 film occupies two time periods, the Spanish Civil War and present day, and yet I must admit I cannot explain how the title translates into The Whore and The Whale. The main character, a female writer named Vera, travels to the Argentine Patagonia to uncover the meaning behind some old photographs she found of a couple during the Spanish Civil War. The team of Andres Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab, who have collaborated on several other past productions, composes the music.
The album, from Mellowdrama Records, opens quietly with "Prelude", a gentle and somewhat bittersweet setting for light strings backing a solo violin, continuing into the "Main Title". Here, the piano sketches out the main theme, a melancholy melody, which attempts to rise higher but instead is kept grounded. "The Journey" begins in the same restrained frame of mind, though includes the slightest hints of South American pan flute, and briefly emerges into a brighter passage, with pounding drums and a smiling string line. In "The Tale of The Whale", mid-range strings, flute and oboe present the saddened tones, but the track does briefly blossom beautifully towards the end. The bittersweet solo violin from "Prelude" returns in "Vera and The Light Bulb", soon accompanied by an accordion, which lightens the mood.
Solo clarinet leads into "Paja Brava / Lola – The Baptism", followed by moodier, darker hued string textures. The main theme emerges on accordion as it slowly, purposefully drags the track to a more positive place. The pleasant lightness remains in the strings and woodwinds to open "Buoy / A Call at the Beach" and later close out "Gagged / The Sale". Lovely, placid strings open "Lola and The Whale / Emilio – Leaving", before turning back to the more saddened tones, while "Release and Farwell" includes some brief, rich, sonorous moments for the strings. Material from the "Prelude" again is recapitulated in the second half of "Vera and Ernesto / The Final Encounter", but then swells to an uneasy, unresolved climax.
A variation of the melancholy main theme is presented on solo piano against strings in "An Argument", followed by the solo violin and its secondary, bittersweet melodic line opening "La Lamparita – End Credits" and being joined once more by the accordion, taking the track along a path similar to that heard in "Vera and The Light Bulb". Yet after this emotive finish, there are still six more tracks on the album, a selection of up-tempo dances performed by violin, accordion and piano. This makes for a nice release after the often restrained and dismayed tones of the score proper but I actually think the album would have been better served if these tracks had been interspersed among the others and not grouped together at the end. Still, those looking for a mature, dramatic work with dash of South American musical flavor should be pleased with this effort.
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