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  Honeymoon Viva Espana
Year: 1959
Director: Michael Powell
Stars: Anthony Steel, Ludmilla Tcherina, Antonio, Leonide Massine, Rosita Segovia, Carmen Rojas, Jose Nieto, Pastora Ruiz, Juan Carmona, Maria Clara Alcara
Genre: Musical, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's a gloriously sunny day in Spain when this pair of honeymooners arrive by ship and disembark with their sports car to drive through the nation’s countryside on holiday. They are farmer Kit Kelly (Anthony Steel) and Anna (Ludmilla Tcherina), who used to be a ballet dancer but now seeks to settle down for the rural life Down Under, making this trip special since it may be the last real vacation they get to take before the matters of Kit's work take over. But as they drive, they are nearly forced off the road by a maniacally driving Spaniard (Antonio) and his girlfriend (Rosita Segovia) who they encounter later on down the way...

By 1959 Michael Powell, once the darling of the British film industry along with his creative partner Emeric Pressburger, was seeing his career slide, as while he was still getting work released, it was not enjoying the success he once had, either critically or at the box office. The following year he would release Peeping Tom, one of the most controversial horror movies of its era, and generally regarded as the final nail in the coffin of his career, though that was not true, he did continue to produce films, for a while retreating to Australia. However, it was clear his glory days were long gone, though his latter-day films did pick up a fan following.

Perhaps the trouble was his high-falutin' aims and the contrast between those and the actual results, which were often labelled pure chintz and kitsch. But he had a manner with the surreal that nobody else really entertained, and that was in evidence here, possibly because he veered so close to creating something unintentionally tacky. There were two ballets in Honeymoon where it was apparent his genuine interest lay, so naturally those were the first sequences to be cut out once the producers got their hands on it to try and salvage something profitable from the enterprise after its critical mauling and initial disappointing financial returns.

This left a sundrenched travelogue that occasionally had Antonio, then regarded as Spain's greatest flamenco dancer, which would make him the world's greatest flamenco dancer, strutting his stuff against a variety of backdrops, including at one stage down an actual Spanish highway, his heels clicking on the surface. While Steel was the top-billed star, he was no dancer, so tended to stand around like a lemon while the other cast members got on with the more exciting business of the prancing, Tcherina to nobody's surprise coaxed back to the Terpsichorean arts as part of the plot, and setting up a love triangle between her new husband and Antonio who she could make sweet music with, or at least dance to sweet music with, hence those two extended ballet setpieces.

They were The Lovers of Teruel and El Amor Brujo, and threw in remarkable imagery as Powell allowed his imagination to run away with him, either in staging the dancing itself, which was lively and energetic, or the details and costuming which included the supernatural in the second ballet, so featured dancers dressed as monsters and a witch with a cauldron that enables her to view other places, like a fantastical CCTV. If you were interested in the dancing, these would be the highlights, and they have since been restored, making the film a lot stronger as a consequence, for the tourist sights, while attractive, were not quite enough to justify an entire picture. It was telling that the ballets were cut, since they represented the true weirdness that a visionary director would have regarded as the reason for making the film, and the stuffier distributors as a liability. They may be camp to modern eyes, and even 1959 eyes, but they are not boring. Music by Mikis Theodorakis.

[Network release this rarity as part of The British Film (it was a Spanish/British co-production) with an interview featurette, the trailer, various language options and subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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