Carlos Saura Vincent Canby - Essay

Vincent Canby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Cousin Angélica"] is a voyage into the past quite unlike any other I've ever seen in a movie, both because Spain's recent history is so particular and because of Mr. Saura's way of always dealing with memory so that it becomes an extension of the immediate present.

"Cousin Angélica" is not simply about Luis's childhood before and during the civil war. It's about Luis's recollections of his childhood as he renews contacts with his family….

Mr. Saura doesn't use conventional flashbacks, which are as isolated from time and feeling as postcard pictures are removed from a tourist's actual experiences ….

En route once again to his relatives, the tearful Luis is comforted by his mother and father. There is nothing exceptional about this scene except that when we see the middle-age, cardigan-wearing Luis being soothed by parents younger than he is we are suddenly presented not only with a memory of the past but with everything that's accrued in the intervening years—with fear, anger and humiliation, but, also with the sense of loss that has haunted his maturity….

[Spain] is the real subject of the film, and at the time it was released there—1974—"Cousin Angélica" caused quite a stir with its references to the war, Spanish Catholicism and the possible nobility of at least some members of the Republican cause. Even if it's difficult for someone not familiar with the subtleties of Spanish life to get all of these references, the movie is extraordinarily compelling, an invitation into a world until recently closed, but whose vitality has remained undiminished. (p. 52)

Vincent Canby, "Poignant Middle Age," in The New York Times (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 13, 1977 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1977–1978, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1979, pp. 51-2).