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11.05.08

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Phaedra

Mondays in the Sun

One disc; Meridian Collection/Lionsgate, one disk, $29.98

Reviewed by Richard von Busack


Not only does Javier Bardem show a different side of himself in the 2002 feature Mondays in the Sun, so does Spain. This comedy/drama is shot in Galicia, the forehead of the "face" of the Iberian peninsula, but the landscape, depressed economy and weather are so akin to the Pacific Northwest that you get déjà vu; the film could be remade without any effort along the rim of the Puget Sound. Bardem plays an unemployed welder called Santa—an appropriate name, since he boasts the gut and beard of a middle-aged Santa Claus. His chronically unemployed friends get about as much fun out of life as can be poured at their neighborhood bar. Although Mondays in the Sun sounds like Ken Loach or Mike Leigh territory, it isn't quite in that zone. Bardem's slouch suggests a man warding off internal crumbling, but his unkillable hopes of escape are mirrored in a musical theme, Charles Trenet's "La Mer." The actor's self-amusement inspires the Cannery Row–like side of seaside loafing. A repeat viewing makes actor José Ángel Egido more prominent as the film's emotional center, much as Tom Wilkinson's very similar character was in The Full Monty. The movie's wit is summed up by a joke about a pair of Russians. "Everything they told us about Communism was a lie!" complains the first; the second says, "And worse than that, everything they told us about capitalism was true!" Extras include storyboard comparisons with the final film. Bardem and director Fernando León de Aranoa appear on a commentary track, and there are some deleted scenes, articulately presented by the director along with the very good reasons why they were deleted—if he had included them, Santa would have been much less ambiguous, and the bar would have been too much like Cheers


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