Carlos Saura John Simon - Essay

John Simon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Saura is concerned [in Cría] with apprehending the continuity between the past and the present, and, if possible, finding a resolution for Spain's political tragedy, the civil war that must have been terrible even for a five-year-old, and whose consequences manifestly haunt him still. (p. 72)

As a result [of Spanish censorship], one must read a Saura film to some extent as a coded document; the hateful father figure, for example, that figures in several of [his] movies is, surely, a symbol also of the Generalissimo and the conditions he imposed; the sundered and emotionally riven families must also be viewed as symbolizing a country rent apart. Cría, like other Saura films, has too much mood in it and too little event, but it is hard to tell whether the cause is a lack of things to say or a lack of freedom in which to say them …

Saura leaps freely back and forth between periods and places—or, more precisely, Anas—and the dream likeness is intensified by the fact that real events and others merely remembered or imagined are shot in the same way and intertwined. It may all be less of an artistic gain than an aestheticizing game.

Saura does not distinguish clearly between a nicely observed atmosphere with fine textural details and all-important plot elements, of which, in any case, there are too few…. So cavalier is the author-director about plot that a whole conversation between the child and the maid Rosa, a fat earth mother, is based on Ana's having been the third girl child born to her disgusted father—when all along it is quite obvious that Ana is in fact the second of three daughters. And though the film tries, with commendable restraint and control, to tell the entire story from the child's point of view, Ana simply does not see enough, and the verbal and visual languages of the film remain undernourished. (p. 73)

John Simon, "Star Dust," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1977 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 10, No. 25, June 20, 1977, pp. 72-3.∗