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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 Competition

Review: Quién te cantará

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Carlos Vermut’s long-awaited third film is a sophisticated, twisted tale of duplicity, authenticity, fame, impersonation and karaoke

Review: Quién te cantará
Najwa Nimri in Quién te cantará

It’s been four years since the San Sebastián International Film Festival elevated the almost unknown filmmaker from Madrid to his rightful place in Spanish cinema. Carlos Vermut had barely made an impact in alternative and internet circuits with an indefinable first film that revealed hints of his audacity: Diamond Flash. One Golden Shell for Best Film later (and a Silver Shell for Best Director to boot), awarded in 2014 for his second feature film, Magical Girl [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile
]
, and both the media and a broader public discovered his singular universe, inhabited by human beings with complex psychologies and even more bewildering behaviour. His latest cinematic offering is entitled Quién te cantará [+see also:
trailer
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile
]
and, like his two previous films, it’s sure to leave no viewer unmoved.

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Vermut has a fascination with Japanese culture and karaoke. The former crept into Magical Girl, while the latter, this correspondent would hazard, lit the spark of inspiration for Quién te cantará. The director himself is a loyal customer of one of those cheesy bars that dot the Spanish capital, where anyone can become — at least for three minutes on stage, microphone in hand — a member of Alaska, Amaral or Mocedades (in fact, the film’s title is borrowed from one of Basque crooners’ greatest hits). That’s exactly what the main character does in Vermut’s new and hypnotic film: stand in for her favourite singer, her idol, the one bright spot in a dull, grey and onerous existence. Eva Llorach is understated and committed as Violeta, who pours herself into the skin of her idol when she becomes a double for pop star Lila Cassen, played by Najwa Nimri. Nimri is a real-life singer as well as an actress, and her performance is laden with self-awareness, introspection and vulnerability.

Supporting the duo are two screen sensations, the veteran Carme Elías and the young but hugely famous Natalia de Molina. Under Vermut’s direction, the four of them create a feminine world where each finds her own reflection as they bleed each other dry. An aura of tragedy haunts the polished, classy imagery of a film that might be somewhat cold and ungainly in the middle, but shines in its third act, leaving the audience stunned as all the pieces fall neatly into place, lifting up this ominous and captivating story.

In Quién te cantará, Vermut, who manages to remain himself while simultaneously stepping into the shoes of others, like the characters he has created, has blended the Hitchcock of Rebecca and Vertigo with the Bergman of Persona and Autumn Sonata; Almodóvar with Blade Runner; lesbian vampires with tyrannical children; identity angst with crippling heredity; and cinematic lustre with the most unbearable cruelty. That such a gripping, dramatic, enigmatic and, indeed, beautiful film emerges as the result confirms this sometime cartoonist as the daring, modern, courageous, original and unique voice that asks in this film, of both himself and us, who are we, really?

Quién te cantará, written and directed by Carlos Vermut, with cinematography by Eduard Grau (Buried [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rodrigo Cortés
film profile
]
) and music by Alberto Iglesias (Julieta [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: Pedro Almodóvar
film profile
]
), was produced by Apache Films, Las Películas del Apache and Áralan Films (Spain) and Les Films du Worso (France). Catalan company Film Factory Entertainment is managing sales, while Caramel Films will distribute the film in Spain from 26 October.

(Translated from Spanish)

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