The Silly Age



Santa Barbara International Film Festival


SANTA BARBARA -- Referring to the not-so-logical years leading up to adolescence, Pavel Giroud's "The Silly Age" is a visually vivid and sharply sardonic rites-of-passage memoir set against the dawning of Fidel Castro's Cuba.

That country's official Oscar submission, the co-production with Spain and Venezuela took home the Nueva Vision Award for best Spanish-language film at the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Drawing from screenwriter Arturo Infante's amusing recollections of growing up with his naive mother and eccentric grandmother, the film packs a commercial appeal that could translate into modest pesetas with the right distributor.

The year is 1958 and 10-year-old Samuel (a perfectly cast Ivan Carreira) and his divorced mother, Alicia (Susana Tejera) have arrived at the Havana home of his grandmother (a terrific Mercedes Sampietro), a feisty portrait photographer.

Decidedly the ungrandmotherly type, she insists the boy address her as Violeta and is quick to lay down the house rules, which include keeping out of several rooms and steering clear of the cupboard containing her collection of saints.

But after a strained start, the two soon form a bond, initially over their shared disappointment in the naive Alicia.

In his first feature, Giroud has taken Infante's alternately audacious and winsome script and treated it to a strikingly shot and lit production vibrantly in keeping with the quirky nostalgic tone.

That artistry extends beyond the energetic cinematography to the color-saturated period production design and Alicia's frivolous wardrobe selection which effectively provide an oblivious contrast to the tremendous social upheaval waiting in the wings.