Writer-director David Trueba strips his characters bare, figuratively and literally, in the language-driven two-hander "Madrid, 1987," which uses a May-December pairing to explore a moment of intense transition for Spain.
The actors give their characters a resonance beyond the symbolic, but the action doesn't quite transcend the stagy setup.
That action, most of which transpires in a locked bathroom, takes place over 24 hours during a heat wave. Veteran columnist Miguel (José Sacristán) has invited Ángela (María Valverde), the pretty journalism student who recently interviewed him, to meet him at a café, and quickly makes clear that he's interested not in critiquing her article but in bedding her.
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Noncommittal but intrigued, she goes with him to his painter friend's studio. His talky seduction stalls, and a few swigs of whiskey and one shower later, they find themselves trapped in the bathroom, naked, with just one towel between them.
The cross-generational animosities and power plays that ensue are culturally specific — little more than a decade after the death of Franco, the country is caught in the throes of new democracy and materialism — but also a universal expression of the struggle between old and young, then and now.
In an astute performance as a lecherous intellectual whose self-satisfaction crumbles, Sacristán uses his rich baritone to deliver lines of biting wit on everything from the military to music in movies.
But as sharp as Miguel's pronouncements are, the overlong feature remains more attuned to the page than to the screen.
"Madrid, 1987." No MPAA rating; in Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.