El Grieto en el Ciel (1998)

“I’m already troubled.”

El Grito en el Cielo (AKA Shout Out) is a riotous Spanish film from directors Dunia Ayaso and Felix Sabroso, and it’s for those who like their comedies frenetic, crude and stuffed full of strong female characters. The male roles in the film are scant and slight. It’s the women who have all the power and rule here, and it’s a world full of vindictiveness, craftiness and no-holds barred competitiveness. While this is ostensibly a comedy film, on another level the film–which should appeal to fans of Almodovar’s early films–takes a sly look at the meaning of ‘reality.’

Gorgeous Miranda Vega (Maria Conchita Alonso) hosts a television programme called Miranda Vega’s Paradise. It’s a showcase for her talents, and with a glamourous, exotic format, she performs various showy numbers for an adoring public. But thanks to plummeting ratings, she’s forced to accept radical changes to her programme, and now she hosts a new style–Trash Television. A “live” talent contest using members of the audience is scheduled to take place with the winner becoming a co-host with Miranda. Naturally, the decision is made that the “most ridiculous” contestant will win.

Various losers who are addicted to Miranda’s programme see this chance as their one shot at fame. There’s Paco (Pepon Nieto) a chubby lonely taxi driver who lip synchs to Camilo Sesto songs, a mother and daughter prostitute team Merche (Carmen Balague) and Rita (Maria Pujalte), shop assistant Mila (Mariola Fuentes) and a narcotic-addicted couple who are “living statues.” In a hilarious sub-plot, a particularly vindictive videotape is played on Miranda’s new programme that shows veteran actress Marta Pena (Loles Leon) fighting with her lover. Vowing revenge, Marta sends her maid, Soraga (Malena Gutierrez) undercover to compete in the programme and destroy Miranda’s career in the process. Soraga, who’s fresh out of jail, enters the competition with her interpretative karate routine.

While the non-stop hilarious action keeps the laughs coming, with a plot loaded with hidden video cameras, insincerity and manipulation, the film also subtly tackles the theme of reality. All of the viewers who watch Miranda’s programme imagine that since she is beautiful and successful, she must also be happy. But the reality is that Miranda’s life is a mess. Her boyfriend is the studio Lothario, and his libido constantly creates enemies who surround Miranda and plot her downfall. But Miranda is well aware of this, and is swift to punish the women who attract the attention of her wandering beau. As a consummate actress, Miranda is perfectly capable of acting whatever part is necessary, and she moves so smoothly from her many roles, that it’s impossible for both her fans and her enemies to tell when she’s acting, and when she’s genuine. I loved this film. It was bold, crude and rude, but apart from that, it was also quite clever and entertaining. In Spanish with English subtitles.

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