Chill Out! (Descongelate)

Director: Felix Sabroso and Dunia Ayaso

(2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 110 mins.)

The black humour and kitschy urban aesthetic of Chill Out! inevitably recall the early work of Pedro Almodovar, whose company El Deseo produced this sharp yet ultimately gentle comedy from co-directors Felix Sabroso and Dunia Ayaso. Discovering unsuspected depths in a familiar plot about people frantically trying to improve their lot, the film makes excellent use of unusual Madrid locations to create a funky, anything-goes feel. The guileless and aptly named Justo Santos (Pepon Nieto) is a struggling impersonator and mind reader who plies his trade in a bar belonging to his brother. At home, Justo is spun like a pinball between his overbearing mom Katy (Loles Leon) and health food-obsessed wife Iris (Candela Peña). When a drug-addled film director offers Justo a lead role, then promptly overdoses at the dinner table, Iris puts the corpse on ice in the bathtub until Justo can collect his money from the producer. The performances are excellent, the dialogue spot-on, and there’s a wonderfully apt soundtrack featuring Fangoria and Najwa.

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