Thursday, August 24, 2006


TO DIE IN SAN HILARIO is a warm-hearted but formulaic movie from Spanish writer/director Laura Mañá. The movie is set in a sepia-tinted version of World War Two-ish Argentina, where gangsters where pin-stripe suits, fedoras and two-tone shoes and trains still run on steam. One particular gangster is on the run from the law with a bag of stolen cash and ends up in a village so inconsequential that it's not even on the map. The villagers - who exist merely to provide elaborate funerals - mistake the man for a bohemian artist who is about to die and begin planning his funeral. Of course, this being a feel-good romance come comedy, the gangster goes through a redemption and brings joy to the villagers in the process. Altogether now: aaah!

There is much to inspire initial interest in TO DIE IN SAN HILARIO. We are in the sort of territory usually inhabited by
Almodovar - eccentric people preserving old rituals of village life. Just think how VOLVER opens with a scene of women polishing graves. The Almodovarian note is also struck by casting Lluís Homar as the gangster - he also played Sr. Berenguer in BAD EDUCATION. However as TO DIE IN SAN HILARIO grinds through its formulaic machinations all interest wanes. The director entirely fails to press home the advantage of this unusual setting. Finally, the film is entirely disposable, and certainly not worth going out of your way to see.

TO DIE IN SAN HILARIO/MORIR EN SAN HILARIO was released in Argentina, Spain, Canada and Brazil in 2005. It is currently on very limited release in the UK and opens in the Netherlands today. It is also available on Region 1 DVD.

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