DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
DISAPPEARANCE OF GARCIA LORCA, THE (aka: DEATH IN GRANADA) (director/writer: Marcos Zurinaga; screenwriters: Juan Antonio Ramos/Neil Cohen/based on the books ''The Assassination of Federico Garcia Lorca'' and ''Federico Garcia Lorca: A Life'' by Ian Gibson; cinematographer: Juan Ruiz Anchia; editor: Carole Kravetz; music: Mark McKenzie; cast: Esai Morales (Ricardo Fernandez), Naim Thomas (Young Ricardo), Edward James Olmos (Lozano), Andy Garcia (Federico Garcia Lorca), Gonzalo Penche (Jorge Aguirre), Marcela Walerstein (Maria Eugenia), Jeroen Krabbe (Colonel Aguirre), Miguel Ferrer (Centeno), Eusebio Lazaro (Vicente Fernandez), Giancarlo Giannini (Taxi), Guillermo Camacho (Gordo), Ellea Ratier (Young Maria), Jose Coronado (Nestor Gonzalez); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Marcos Zurinaga/Enrique Cerezo; Triumph Releasing; 1996)

"Contrived murder mystery focusing on the mysterious death of the esteemed Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Puerto Rican director Marcos Zurinaga ("Tango Bar"/"Puerto Rico"/"La Gran Fiesta") seems perplexed directing this contrived murder mystery focusing on the mysterious death of the esteemed Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (Andy Garcia), who was executed in 1936, at the age of 38, by Franco's army during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The well-meaning thriller comes across as stiff, uninteresting, heavy-handed and too reverential to Lorca. The bad film-making does an injustice to a great man of the arts, who stood up against the fascists, their prejudices and injustices. It's weakly written by the director, Juan Antonio Ramos and Neil Cohen; it's based on the books ''The Assassination of Federico Garcia Lorca'' and ''Federico Garcia Lorca: A Life'' by Ian Gibson.

The narrative mistakenly veers back and forth between 1936 in Granada and Puerto Rico and Spain in 1954, as it leaves us dizzy with so many moves back and forth--making the narrative unnecessarily difficult to follow.

In 1934, in Madrid, teenagers Ricardo Fernandez (Naim Thomas) and Jorge Aquirre (Gonzalo Penche) meet Lorca back stage after attending the premiere of his controversial anti- clerical play "Yerma." In 1936 the outspoken poet Lorca returns to his hometown of Granada, smugly thinking because of his fame he will not be killed by the fascists even if he's threatened by them. Soon Jorge, whose father is the fascist military colonel (Jeroen Krabbe, Dutch actor), is killed accidentally in a fascist street raid on Lorca sympathizers. Lorca is subsequently arrested and vanishes without a trace. We then return to 1954 in Puerto Rico, where the naive 32-year-old Ricardo (Esai Morales), now a journalist, is anxious to uncover the mystery of Lorca's death of 18 years ago by writing a book on that subject, and he returns to Franco's Spain despite his father's (Eusebio Lazaro) pleas not to. In Granada his father's best friend, Colonel Aguirre, acts as his protective host. Ricky becomes romantically involved with Jorge's sister Maria Eugenia (Marcela Walerstein), now fully grown, beautiful and protective of her fascist father. She reluctantly helps him get to the bottom of the mystery, while all those around Ricky urge him to return to America because he's in danger. A taxi driver (Giancarlo Giannini), who may be a friend or a foe, takes Ricky around Granada while he's hunting for clues. In Ricky's obsessive search for the truth, he encounters a former military officer now a Madrid publisher named Lozano (Edward James Olmos), who is publishing a first-class edition of Lorca's works even though he arrested him in 1936 (meaning dead poets are safe to read). Ricky also encounters a fascist secret-police agent, Centeno (Miguel Ferrer), who once administered a beating to the homosexual writer.

The murder investigation pic is a hollow and pretentious film, whose speculation on who murdered Lorca is reduced to clunky theatrics and with creating a false suspense by casting suspicion on any fascist character introduced as the possible Lorca killer. It somehow, without intending to, manages to trivialize the martyred poet's role as an inspiration to the freedom fighters fighting the fascists, by making his character so unbelievably thin and elusive. But the casting of such a wooden actor as Morales in the lead role, has to be the pic's biggest mistake.

REVIEWED ON 11/11/2011       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED   DENNIS SCHWARTZ