Friday 8th March was the ¡Viva! 2013 festival’s opening gala at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. lt began with the UK premiere of ¡Atraco! (Hold Up!), a tragi-comic heist caper set in 1950’s Madrid that nods to classical Hollywood cinema. Inspired by real events, this Spanish/Argentinian co-production revolves around a complex feigned robbery of a jewellery shop.
The mission is oraganised to prevent the wife of Spain’s dictator General Franco from obtaining jewels once owned by Argentinia’s first lady Eva Perón (Evie). Guillermo Francella, (Argentina’s Oscar-winner The Secret in Their Eyes) plays passionate Perón loyalist Merello designated as the man for the job. Nicolás Cabré plays his incompetant younger colleague Miguel, a sweet Charlie Chaplin imitator who can’t stand violence. Amaia Salamanca plays the beautiful, wide eyed nurse who Miguel falls in love with. Óscar Jaenada and Jordi Martínez play the policemen hunting them down.
The film is a blend of crime, comedy, romance and drama. Its intention is to appear as if from another era, and in this sense it well crafted. The big-band score from the Budapest Jazz Orchestra accompanies the 1950s costuming and slapstick humour. There were regular laughs from around half of the audience, and after the credits rolled there was a steady applause, yet I’m afraid I didn’t feel it. The comedy was tame and familiar. I cannot praise the film wholeheartedly when I didn’t laugh once, as that is the purpose of comedy after all.
True, the film would appeal more to family audiences. There is a serious undertone, and bursts of solemnity, but the break away from comedy feels jarring and tiresome. ¡Atraco! is well meaning enough, it stylistically achieves the result it intended, and has a warm hearted core. Still, ¡Viva! festival will assuredly have stronger works to display during the upcoming fortnight.