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The King of all the World (El Rey de todo el Mundo)

Octogenarian filmmaker and DOP join forces in order to create a film exuding youth, while also paying tribute to Spanish/Mexican music and dance - from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


British filmmaker Peter Greenaway recently told me that “there are very few works of great significance done by anybody over 80”. The King of All the World is one of such exceptions, and twice so. Eighty-nine-year-old Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura pairs up with 81-year-old Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storato (of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Apocalypse Now) in order to create an energetic and multilayered celebration of music and dance. And a powerful piece of metafiction.

Stage director Manuel (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and choreographer Sara (Ana de la Reguera) are preparing a musical. They cast the talented Ines (Greta Elizondo) and a troupe of young and beautiful dancers. The outcome is a true celebration of chiselled young bodies – male and female. They often dance in front of mirrors, in a symbolic gesture of narcissism. “They chose me because I’m the most beautiful male of Guadalajara”, boasts one of the performers.

Manuel and Sara’s imaginative new show involves car crashes, police violence and abundant passion. In fact, the play in question mirrors Ines’s life: she has also encountered violence and became involved in tragic car incident, in a vaguely confusing plot about her father being targeted by a mob. Layers of reality, stage and dream are braided together in order to create a deeply melodious movie, bordering on freeform.

Both the film and the play within take place in the suburbs of Mexico City. Cars have a profound significance. A crashed car stands in the middle of the stage. And it is inside a parked vehicle that one of the film’s most defining dialogues takes place. The stage is a battlefield. The car is a vector of emotions. Both the stage and the car are life-changing locations. Thanks to a car crash, one of the dancers is wheelchair-bound. Or maybe not. Is it just her character who is disabled?

The powerhouse dance acts (which make up roughly 50% of the film) are infused with a dash of Flamenco vigour and a splash of Pina Bausch. The music is entirely in Spanish language. A soulful soundtrack that will hopefully be launched on various platforms. Highlights include Fallaste Corazon by Cuco Sanchez and La Llorona by Fela Dominguez, little-known artists whom this film will hopefully catapult to fame.

This is neither Saura’s nor Storato’s masterpiece. It would be extremely unfair to expect the two artists to deliver their finest work at such advanced age. However The King of all the World is very enjoyable to watch at a neat 95 minutes. A generous feast of music and dance, served with a very thin narrative layer.

The King of all the World has just premiered in the Official Selection of the 25th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, but it is showing out of competition. It is dedicated “to all Mexicans and all Spaniards who made musicals possible with their love”.

By Victor Fraga - 27-11-2021

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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