Saura is one of those tightly controlled, long-distance filmmakers … who, rather than exploding into Felliniesque self-apotheosis, tends to implode within personal themes and a signatory style. Saura's Garden of Delights and Cousin Angelica … seethed in their contemporary portraits of familial disintegration and bitter memories of past repressions.
A funny thing, however, has happened to Saura on the way to the '80s. The director's latest films reveal a desperate, unconscious need for Franco and the good old bad days of repression that had added an urgency and subtextual sting to his films. Without a relevant nemesis, Mama Turns 100 emerges as a lightweight parody of Garden of Delights (and, by implication, of Saura himself) and Blindfolded [Los ojos vendados] evolves as a stylish romance that fails in its secondary purpose as a political thesis because it lacks a credible right-wing villain. In Saura's new films, the Spain of a benign restored monarchy and chidings from Amnesty International seem colorless compared to the jackboots of the Caudillo. Without contextual bitterness, Saura's archetypal devices of memory connections and multiple identities seem robbed of their synapses, certainly of the subliminal resonances that simmered beneath his haunted, complex imagery. In Mama Turns 100, the nude scenes with a liberated, pot-smoking young woman have also led to a corresponding decline in the director's steamy eroticism. In Saura's latter-day career, the new freedom in Spain has exacted a bewildering, paradoxical cost.
Tom Allen, "New Signals from Saura and Sirk" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © News Group Publications, Inc., 1980), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXV, No. 3, January 21, 1980, p. 54.∗