Plácido (1961)

My knowledge of Spanish cinema is limited to a lot of Pedro Almodóvar and very little of Alejandro Amenábar, so I took advantage of Christmas to expand my knowledge and watch Luis García Berlanga's Plácido.

Set on Christmas Eve in a small Spanish town, it follows a 'sit a poor man at your table' charity which consists of wealthy townsfolks having a homeless person over for dinner that night. The celebrations also include a parade and in it there's Plácido (Cassen), a humble three-wheeler owner whose family lives in a public lavatory because of the lack of money, and we follow him as he tries to earn the money he needs to pay an overdue on his truck before midnight.

Although at some points it bored me to the point I had to take a break, the film is quite clever and manages to criticize Franco's dictatorship and the Catholic charity operating under him very well. I don't know if you know, but the 'sit a poor man at your table' (Siente un pobre a su mesa) was an actual charitable campaign and that was also the title the film was supposed to have but then it was changed to the name of one of the characters because of the censor. 

Moving on, Plácido is very good at capturing the madness of Christmas parties and the chaos of everyday life, but most importantly, it's great at portraying hypocrisy. These rich people only care about their image, they don't give a damn about the poor man or woman they've taken with them for Christmas Eve. To them, this charity is nothing but a race against their peers about who is more generous. Those people are portrayed in such a manner that you'll feel sorry for them. Also, the differences between the very poor and the very rich is portrayed very well. 

Plácido and his journey are easily my favourite things about the film though. At the beginning, he considers himself as a poor man but by the end, as he goes throw a lot and encounters the less fortunate, he realises how much he really has and how important that is. 

But like I said earlier, the film was boring and I think the reason is the language barrier. I guess the comedy just didn't translate well. There are some absurd situations (very similar to those in Italian cinema) that made me laugh, but the dialogue didn't work much for me. People talk a lot in here. That's a thing I usually like about a film but this time I hated it. Why? Simply because they talked too fast and it was impossible to read all the subtitles and hence I lost some of the dialogue. 

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