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  Golden Balls No, it's not a Beckham biopic
Year: 1993
Director: Bigas Luna
Stars: Javier Bardem, Maria de Medeiros, Maribel Verdú, Raquel Bianca, Elisa Tovati, Alessandro Gassman, Benicio Del Toro
Genre: Drama, Sex, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Spanish auteur Bigas Luna describes this as his “homage to machismo”, the middle part of his “testicular trilogy”, sandwiched by Jamón Jamón (1992) and The Tit and the Moon (1994). Benito Gonzalez (Javier Bardem - in his first, truly great performance) is a swaggering, Latin macho; the type Luna claims to deeply despise. His story is a sex-drenched variant on classic Hollywood melodrama. One could easily imagine Kirk Douglas or Anthony Quinn playing Benito in the 1950s. Discharged from the army, Benito plans to make it big in the construction industry, but after he loses his girl Rita to his best friend, he resolves to live life with his cojones. Benito seduces voluptuous beauty, Claudia (Maribel Verdú), prostitutes her to lure a potential investor, and keeps her as his mistress after he marries Marta (Maria de Medeiros - Bruce Willis’ girlfriend in Pulp Fiction (1994)) for her father’s money.

Luna skewers the get rich quick, do anything to succeed mentality celebrated in big business around the world. It is another aspect to his ongoing suspicions about misogyny latent in masculine values. Unlike other rise and fall sagas, where sex scenes stop the story cold, Luna’s actually further the plot, revealing as much character detail as bare flesh (with dialogue frequently uttered amidst throes of passion). Golden Balls balances satire and drama better than Jamón Jamón. Benito’s neurotic need to possess and control every woman in his life is highlighted in the extraordinary scene where he brings Claudia home to his wife. Luna musters considerable sympathy for the abused women who bond over their mutual devotion to the swine, then settle into a threesome where their lesbian passion breaks Benito’s control (and he goes off to sulk). Of the ladies, Maribel Verdu stands out, delivering an erotically charged, yet emotionally vulnerable performance. She was arguably even better in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and remains one of the great, unsung actresses.

Phallic imagery - tall buildings, obelisks, sausages - and bizarre, dream sequences full of provocative symbolism (ants crawling over female genitalia) mark this out as a Luna film. One of his most expansive and enthralling. Javier Bardem makes Benito a fascinating monster: tragic, repulsive, hilarious (his frequent karaoke tributes to Julio Iglesias) and prone to outrageous statements like “Buildings and hard-ons are the fast track to success.” After an unfortunate accident, he gets his comeuppance at the hands of Ana (Raquel Bianca), a woman every bit as voracious and domineering as he is. Look out for a young Benicio Del Toro as Ana’s lover.

Luna intended Benito to be a man defined by each of the four women, representing the North, South, East and West. Benito’s final epiphany (“I’ve had it with balls… I’ve had it with passion!”) has him break down, sobbing over the end credits. In a DVD interview, Luna admits this is the point where he grew to love Benito, and it would be a hard-hearted soul who doesn’t respond to Bardem’s sincerity.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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