Following his portrait of men in Mondays in the Sun, director de Aranoa focuses on ladies of the night


on August 23, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
In his 2001 film Los Lunes al Sol ( Mondays in the Sun ), Spanish filmmaker Fernando Leon de Aranoa explored a particular strata of Spanish society: laid-off dock workers, mostly men, whose lives have drifted into oblivion under the weight of nothingness and a seemingly hopeless future that they have for the most part accepted. In Princesas he turns his lens on the sex-workers of Madrid, following two women, Caye (Candela Pena) and Zulema (Micaela Nevarez), whose circumstances are much the same as the men in Mondays in the Sun. They too are trapped in a cycle from which there seems no way out.

While these subjects are ostensibly disparate, the similarities, at least as filtered by de Aranoa, are striking, particularly in the difference between the perspectives from which the men in the former and the women in the latter engage their circumstances. The men of Mondays are maudlin and somber, whereas the women in Princesas are stoic and hopeful, though it might be argued that their situations are a good deal more dire.

The narrative follows these two women as they join forces to actually change their lives. Caye helps Zulelma, who is illegally residing in Spain, get her papers from an abusive government official who dangles the hope of becoming legal to extract sex. Meanwhile, Zulema guides Caye through a burgeoning relationship with a man who does not know what she does for a living.

Although Princesas is certainly difficult, painful and heart-wrenching, there is a dark humor, hopefulness and willingness to fight for their existences in these women that the men of Mondays in the Sun lack. Although the films are otherwise unrelated, for audiences who see both the juxtaposition of these two definitively different reactions to much the same circumstances resonates and suggests an acute understanding of the complicated human condition on the part of de Aranoa. Princesas is a powerful and poignant film, hopeful when hope might be the last thing one expects.

Distributor: IFC First Take
Cast: Candela Pena, Micaela Nevarez, Mariana Cordero, Llum Berrera, Violeta Perez, Monica Van Campen, Flora Alveraz, Maria Ballesteros, Alejandra Lorente and Luis Callejo
Director/Screenwriter: Fernando Leon de Aranoa
Producers: Fernando Leon de Aranoa and Jaume Roures
Genre: Drama; Spanish-language, subtitled
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 114 min.
Release date: August 25, 2006

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