Tapas were on the platter for the opening night of the International Latino Film Festival, 2005 in San Francisco. The film, already a hit in Spain and winner of the Palmarés Award at the 2005 Festival de Malaga, had the audience laughing even though this film might be classified more as a dramatic comedy. The film takes place the typical neighborhood of L’Hospitalet de Llorbregat in Barcelona, Spain where it weaves five stories in and around a tapas bar, a small market, and other local shops.
The success of the film can be attributed to directors José Corbacho and Juan Cruz who keep the characters, emotions and situations real. One situation follows Raquel (Elvira Mínguez), an attractive middle-aged woman, who experiences love through the Internet. It’s not only about love but sex. The sex may be from the other side of the globe via cyberspace but it’s sex nonetheless. The second story follows Mariano and Conchi (María Galiana) an older couple who experience loneliness even through they remain together. Two young supermarket clerks Cesar and Opo highlight the forth tale and lastly Lolo (Ángel de Andrés López) finds that a world exists beyond his tapas bar when his new Chinese cook Mao shows him not only how to create great tapas but that love crosses international borders.
For those not familiar with tapas, they represent not only the appetizer-sized food of Spain but they serve as a social element as well. The social, as well as the emotional and sexual elements ring true in this film as Corbacho and Cruz keep the situations and the dialogue authentic. They do add comical touches to would be serious situations, such as the notion of grandma aged Conchi selling her sick husband’s prescription drugs to neighborhood kids to collect extra cash. The notion of a grandmother pushing drugs might seem absurd but here it seems almost comical in a sense. Much of the film crisscrosses international elements such as the Bruce Lee discussion that shows up repeatedly. Cesar and Opo discuss the martial arts master and the mysterious circumstances about how he died, as well as his movie and TV replacements such as Chuck Norris and David Carradine. Its amusing to hear them banter about the conspiracy behind the Master’s death, which seems more like a scene from Clerks but nonetheless adds to films quirkiness. Masterful Chinese chef Mao also adds his martial arts touch with his Zen like methods in the kitchen, not to mention his Bruce Lee tattoo.
Normally a film revolving around five stories might be cause for short shifting character development but the filmmakers creatively tie the characters together, thus not causing the film to be too fragmented. Not all the stories or situations hold together 100% and some of the symbolic actions seemed wasted or misplaced. But like tapas themselves, the film offers a tasty variety of flavors and sensations to those who seek out this amusingly dramatic romp.