A witty comedy from Spain will have its U.S. premiere at Coral Gables Art Cinema this Friday. The red carpet will be rolled out for director/writer/lead actor, Daniel Castro, who will make a personal appearance for the event. Ilusión, Castro’s feature debut, takes aim at the world of popular filmmaking on many levels with a smart, sarcastic wit that doesn't forget its heart.
It’s hard to tell who exactly Castro is making fun of with his new movie, Ilusión. Is it the audience, the world of film production, the idea of prestige or even the filmmaker himself? It's not a detriment to the film's tone. It speaks to the many layers represented by the movie's title, which translates in English to illusion. Those paying attention to the subtitles will also notice that the word can also represent "hope," "joy," and even "enthusiasm." All are representative words in this brisk comedy about film-making that takes aim at hubris and narcissism in a style similar to Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach.
The story follows a slacker filmmaker named Daniel Castro, who is also played by the director (another level of illusion). Dani dreams of seeing his script about the Moncloa Pact of 1978 — the predecessor to the Spanish Constitution after the death of Franco — turned into a major musical that will bring hope to the masses of Spain in the wake of dark economic times. Producers, however, don’t see a profit in a movie about a mundane part of history featuring singing politicians whose names no one remembers.
Meanwhile, Dani mooches off his parents and patient girlfriend who is the only one making any money to pay the rent. In one of the film’s great running gags, Dani finds time to rail against Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, whose dark films include Funny Games, which features two upper class teens who terrorize and murder a family on vacation. He writes a letter to Haneke encouraging him to “embrace hope.” He also abruptly quits a new job at a bookshop after trying to convince a customer not to purchase three Haneke films she has brought to the counter, including Funny Games. "Every time a film by Haneke is sold, the world gets a little bit worse," he insists.
But his stand is more than eccentric. Though self-absorbed, Dani also has a serious concern about the grim outlook of the world. He is a descendant of Don Quixote, but his damsel in distress is cinema. The fact that it feels genuine, speaks to the skill of the filmmaker. It’s a compact, honest film that understands tonal shifts and keeps the dialogue tight.
The special premiere of this film in Miami is preceded by a short called Hotline, featuring another kind of illusion: the deceptions of a phone sex operator and what role perceptions and truth play in turning on the customer. After the main attraction, stick around for a coda featuring Castro showing off his film’s awards to an ex-girlfriend in a manner only he can.
Ilusión opens exclusively at the Coral Gables Art Cinema this Friday, May 29. Director/writer/lead actor Daniel Castro will be in attendance and will host an extended Q&A after the screening. The event also includes a catered reception from 8 to 9 p.m. and the film starts at 9 p.m. It will be preceded by Castro's short Hotline and capped with the short After Málaga. Tickets are $20 and $15 for members. For more information, visit gablescinema.com.