La Caza (1966)

20 09 2008

Not at all like Carlos Saura’s much more acclaimed Cria Cuervos, which is fine by me as I never really cared much for that film anyway. Really, the only aspect of that film that I would have liked to see here is the very gentle humanistic approach. Cria Cuervos probably felt a bit too fragile, if anything, but La Caza could have benefited from a similar attention and care for its characters. Instead, it’s a vaguely transgressive Antonioni-esque action film that comes out on the positive side of the scales in spite of the fact that it completely abandones the mature “contemplative” vibe for a laughably violent climax. For the most part, though, this is a very good film, another unrecognized work with a strong Antonioni influence.

A group of old friends, Don José, Paco, and Luis reunite after years of seperation for a day of rabbit hunting. Paco’s son in-law, Enrique, tags along, but even he suspects an alterior motive for being invited. The event’s host, Don José, plans to reunite his closet friends for the purpose of recieving financial aid. Paco is a wealthy self-employed business man, and Luis is fairly pessimistic, recently divorced, and devotes most of his time to literature. Both turn down Don José’s call for help, which infuriates everyone involved. The day progresses, and tensions reach a high point – something is bound to happen.

To call reference to something I recently viewed, this does share a lot in common with Jancsó’s Cantata. The obvious reason being the very apparent Antonioni influence present in both films. Overall, Jancsó comes much closer to making a film more in touch with Antonioni’s thematic interests. Alienation and lonliness are only subtly hinted at in Saura’s film, though it’s worth noting that his interests clearly lie elsewhere. It may be a result of watching a lot of westerns as of late, but the way in which the past of every character plays makes up a bulk of the film’s core definitely reminds me of something Boetticher or Mann would do.

Most of the Antonioni similarities lie in the technical rather than in the thematic. Setting a film in a barren, relatively isolated landscape will almost inherently invite comparisons to L’Avventura but the deliberate pace that Saura uses only deepens the similarities. There is a very unassuming vibe going on for an extended amount of time, that is unfortunately destroyed in the film’s final seconds. Still, the lack of drama within the first hour is particularly impressive. The calm landscapes contrast beautifully with the very intimate and textured close-ups on individuals, which brings to mind Teshigahara’s Women in the Dunes, a film that Saura (almost) visually references towards the end. That definitely made me want to reconsider my opinion of Carlos Saura, even though I’d still say that he ended this film in a rather hokey fashion.

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