Children of the Wind is the second film I’ve reviewed by Merinero within a few months, and a much more positive review than the last (though both films are interesting, liable to stay in the mind and give rise to thought). Merinero, however, remains an elusive figure to me. I know I tend not these days much to follow new cinema any more – I watch it more or less at random – but while I’ve heard of, say, Almodóvar – to whom we may perhaps in many ways compare his compatriot Merinero -while I’m conscious Almodóvar, for most people (at least within the circles I inhabit) is going to have some sort of resonance – Merinero is a director I’ve never once heard mentioned anywhere. He has no English Wikipedia page; but what’s more surprising is he doesn’t have a Spanish one either – yet he’s managed to direct seven feature films. So we can’t even argue that he is unknown in the English-speaking world because he’s so Spanish (as I seem to remember doing in my last piece).
The plot: a beautiful woman, Magaly (played by Magaly Santana), invites a married man, Fernando (played by Fernando Merinero), to her apartment in the Canary Islands. Fernando is a lawyer, who previously rescued her from jail in Spain (I think, though imdb says Cuba) by providing her with a false passport. Fernando comes to visit. It is clear he is infatuated with her, and believes that perhaps (after his past sacrifice, perhaps) she loves him. And while in some way love him (as she states continually throughout the film), she does not desire him in a sexual way, nor has invited him to visit her in order to let him sleep with her, as he is hoping. Indeed, it is unclear why she has invited him. Magaly works as an escort in a bar perhaps (a prostitute?); she has relationships with various other women, all of which are highly psychologically abusive. Magaly’s personality entirely dominates the film: she is a largely than life character; everyone loves her and everyone is jealous of her least attention. All the characters in the film (including very much Fernando) are inn fact engaged in a perpetual combat for her attention, which can at times become exceedingly cruel and violent. Magaly’s attitude towards them is ambivalent: she will love them one minute, then the next show them nothing but contempt. In truth, she has lived a hard life (about which she remains very private) and is only out for herself.
Children of the Wind is a film which reminds me of other films, whilst strangely being nothing like them. I mentioned Almodóvar above, perhaps for the very strong female characters. But Merinero’s films are grainer, much more real than Almodóvar; the backdrop is one of poverty, the slums of Las Palmas, the dark underbelly of life, drugs and exceedingly damaging relationships. Also, Merinero himself cannot help but remind me of Borat, physically at least. This is the best photograph I can find of him on the internet in this guise, yet it doesn’t really do justice to the comparison. One needs a picture of the gangly, scrawny Merinero in his skimpy leopard-skin beach-wear, and his self-belief that he doesn’t look completely absurd. Another comparison which comes up in this regard is Woody Allen – the comically self-aggrandising leading-man whose success with women one feels is largely down to them also being the director. And yet – unlike Allen – Merinero isn’t successful with women, and his pursuit of Magaly becomes painful to watch; you feel for him, in a way you don’t for Allen. Yet for all these comparisons to comic works, none of this is in truth played for laughs; the film is instead full of people being torn apart by the emotions they feel. Certainly this is not a movie that going to cheer you up and make you feel good (though, on saying that, I found the ending quite uplifting, in a final cadence type way).
All of Merinero’s films are available on mubi (which has now reduced its subscription to £2.99/month).