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“If you want to know what a crisis is,” says one of the characters in 2 Francos, 40 pesetas, “then come to Spain”. When the popular comic Carlos Iglesias made One Franc, 14 pesetas back in 2006, the true story it told – about Spaniards forced into exile in Switzerland in search of work in the 60s, based on the experiences of Iglesias’ own family – seemed like a distant memory. The current crisis, which has forced another generation of Spaniards to uproot for similar reasons, makes the follow-up, set in 1974, feel oddly contemporary despite its dated treatment, and it’s where the film is pushing the then/now comparisons that it’s at its best.
Otherwise, it’s little more than a serviceable, supremely nostalgic comedy that as well as being set in 1974, could practically have been made at that time. On the back of the earlier film, it’s Spanish-speaking territories that are likeliest to be interested.
Martin (Iglesias, his appealing, puppy-dog features still intact) and wife Pilar (Nieves de Medina) bid farewell to their improbably cute son Pablo (Adrian Exposito) and his somewhat tonto buddy Juan (Luisber Santiago) on a rail trip around Europe. Born in Switzerland, Pablo wishes to visit his birthplace, but they soon stumble into a hippie community where, via a curious scene involving some mutual tooth cleaning, they will encounter free love in the arms of Rita (Anahi Beholi) and Alexandra (Alexandra Nicod): This is one of many ways, as in the earlier film, that northern European sophistication is set against Spanish backwardness.
Martin’s friend Marcos (Javier Gutierrez) and wife Mari Carmen (Angela del Salto) are to have a child and Marcos and Pilar make the trip over to Switzerland for the christening. Several other characters will also make their way over to the picture postcard Swiss village, including Roberto Alvarez as an Opus Dei businessman illegally taking money out of Spain. Much gentle farce ensues. The final scenes, where all the characters come together, are the best, showing that Iglesias is a better scriptwriter and director of big collective scenes stuffed with enjoyable stereotypes than he is at getting behind the surfaces of people to the complexities beneath.
All of these characters without exception come over as simple, a little lost and panicky in the wider world, and though this is probably part of Iglesias’ point, it’s a dramatically high price to pay when not a single one of them – Martin apart, intermittently – is actually interesting.
The film is suffused with a behind-the-times air, with much seen-it-before humor. One scene, featuring a drunken priest wailing flamenco into the night, is amusing enough for the first five seconds and just depressing for the remaining twenty, while a black doctor seems to have been implausibly squeezed in merely to show how unthinkingly racist Spaniards were back in 1974. Likewise, there is one gooey slow motion scene that is just risible.
But when the script stops going for laughs or sentimentality and concerns itself with getting things true, then there are minor rewards. The social context is portrayed with a good eye for detail, especially when it comes to injustice. Pablo’s shame at Spain’s backwardness is well done and is a good example of a Spanish cultural insecurity which indeed may continue today. Likewise, the social distinctions that are made between those who are in Switzerland to work and those who are there by choice is nicely expressed, closer to the social documentary tone that made the earlier film more memorable. “Can women vote in Spain?” someone asks: “That’s the problem,” Martin replies. “In Spain nobody can vote”. The film is strongest when, as at moments like these, it is at its angriest.
Paco Sanches Polo’s photography seems to be aiming at a slightly bleached-out, period feel through the Madrid sequences. He also makes the most of the stunning Alpine scenery, but the use of aerial shots is entirely surplus to requirements. In Spanish, the title involves a pun on “franc”, as in currency, and “Franco”, as in dictator.
Production: Gonafilm, Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion
Cast: Carlos Iglesias, Javier Gutierrez, Nieve de Medina, Isabel Blanco, Angela del Salto, Luisber Santiago, Adtian Exposito, Esther Regina, Aldo Sebastianelli, Isabelle Stofell, Anahi Beholi, Alexandra Nicod
Director, screenwriter: Carlos Iglesias
Producers: Juan Gona, Karin Koch
Executive producers: Joel Louis Jent
Director of photography: Paco Sanches Polo
Production designer: Salvador Lopez
Editor: Miguel Santamaria
Music: Mario de Benito
Wardrobe: Ana Escobar
Sound: Jorge Marin, Jose Manuel Morell , Agustin Peinado
No rating, 99 minutes
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