Carlos Saura Penelope Gilliatt - Essay

Penelope Gilliatt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A man of early middle age touches a bald place on his head for a moment. In another film, it might be that he was thinking of his looks. In Carlos Saura's wonderful Spanish picture "Cousin Angelica" …, the movement is one of trying to correct the blurring of time and history….

When the hero, called Luis Cano, touches his head, he is trying to retrieve something lost. The idea of having the same actor play both the boy and the man tells us what we all know: that everyone is every age at the same time, eight and forty-eight and eighty, merely embossed in a slowly changing carcass. The film tells us, too, that people have faulty memories. In the present of the film, Luis is trying to put things in order…. Time passes after all. A boy grows into a man, a generation grows into aeons of men. Luis, this boy, this man, is concerned to make memory concrete, not diffuse; he has the mind of a mathematician, the doubts of a scholar….

One's own mind goes back with the hero's to school as he remembers "how difficult it was to write a page without making a blot" before the days of ball-points. "It took all the pains in the world."

All the pains in the world are in this film….

The film is a sanctified fancy about memory, a recovery from sourness. (p. 109)

Penelope Gilliatt, "In Passage," in The New Yorker (© 1977 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. LIII, No. 14, May 23, 1977, pp. 109-11.∗