November 24, 2008
Based on the novel by Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo, David Ulloa and Tristán Ulloa's Pudor, is prefaced with a tongue-in-cheek anecdote on the etymology of the eponymous title. Derived from the Latin word pudoris for honesty, modesty and reserve, a slight variation in spelling to putoris alters its definition to a stench. The idea that a subtle shift in text can drastically alter connotation and lead to new, unintended meanings also shapes the fragile relationships with family, lovers, and friends in the film as well. This fragility is foreshadowed in the opening sequence of young Sergio (Marcos Ruiz) waiting in the geriatric wing of a hospital for what would turn out to be his grandmother's death watch. Left unattended by his older sister (who dismisses him for being adopted), Sergio sneaks into his grandmother's hospital room, fiddles with the controls of her life support equipment, and unwittingly hastens her death. Seemingly abandoned by his sister, mother, and now his grandmother at the hospital, Sergio finds communion in the company of ghosts. In a sense, Sergio's family has also become ghosts. His mother Julia (Elvira Minguez), overwhelmed with too many responsibilities in the absence of her distracted, workaholic husband, has retreated into her own private hell, perversely finding validation in erotic messages that have been left around her environment. His father Alfredo (Nancho Novo), unable to find the right moment to discuss his own health crisis with his family, begins to find a kindred spirit (or rather, an alter-ego) in his headstrong, outspoken secretary, Gloria (Carolina Román). Sergio's older sister, Marisa (Natalia Rodriguez) is too consumed by her own struggles with body image and sexuality to provide guidance, resorting instead to telling nightmarish bedtime stories that only serve to further confuse his sense of reality. And even his newly widowed, elderly grandfather (Celso Bugallo) proves to be a fickle companion when he begins to wander the streets in search of an invalid woman. Similar to Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata, the nuclear family in Pudor is also on the verge of fission, where the ritual of family dinner serves to reinforce a hollow structure that has already crumbled under the weight of everyday distractions and personal insecurities. Ironically, as in Kurosawa's film, an accident also brings the family together towards a separate peace, where re-connection is found in a leap of faith and the naïve courage to confront one's own phantoms.
Pudor screens on 12/11 at 7:00 p.m. and 12/17 at 1:30 p.m. as part of Spanish Cinema Now.