Jamón Jamón Reviews
José has a difficult time explaining to his overbearing and conniving mother that he is in love with Silvia and intends to marry her. José's mother, Conchita, does not approve and when her husband refuses to help her by intervening, she takes matters into her own hands. She hires Raul ( Javier Bardem), an underwear model who works for the family business to seduce Silvia, hoping this will destroy the relationship and prevent the marriage. In spite of several aggressive attempts by Raul to seduce Silvia, she remains committed to marry José. Raúl however, becomes genuinely infatuated with Silvia while Conchita's (Stefania Sandrelli) lust for Raúl leads her to offer him anything he wants if only he has sex with her. Raul's choice is a Yamaha FZR600 motorbike so, despite his apparent lack of interest in Conchita, he becomes her lover.
Meanwhile, José's inability to come to a decision about whether to marry Silvia without his mother's approval, leads to Silvia's deciding she wants a "real man", one who has gumption. She begins to take interest in Raúl. Conchita does not approve of this relationship either because she wants Raúl for herself.
Food as metaphor pervades this witty, sexy, stunning, film. Characters have primal lusts (hungers), which are described with meat and animal imagery. One of Silvia's suitors (Raúl, played by Javier Bardem) is an aspiring bullfighter. There is a scene of nude bullfighting. At the end of the movie, the two characters vying for her affection beat each other with enormous cuts of these ham hocks.
An example of the use of food imagery occurs in an erotic scene between Silvia and José Luis. At one point he gently pulls down her shirt and starts to suck and lick her nipples. The English subtitles are:
Silvia: How come you like eating my tits?
José Luis: I like the way they taste.
S: What do they taste like?
JL: I don't know. Nothing.
S: Is it that they taste like ham omelette?
JL: That would be asking too much: one tasting like an omelette and the other like ham.
S: José Luis...
The Spanish names of these dishes are jamón serrano and tortilla de patatas.
You don't have to be Spanish to get this movie but it surely helps.
It's a bit sad to see so many reviews which so totally miss the point, and none of them from Spain. One negative reviewer even thought the film was set in Mexico which goes to show how much attention he was paying.
This film is a satire on various aspects of Spanish culture and character, primarily machismo and sexual hypocrisy, but taking in culinary preferences, attitudes to animals and those surreal brandy adverts in the shape of bulls that any visitor to Spain will be familiar with. Bigas Luna chucks it all in the stew and turns the heat up to maximum.
And why are so many people upset by the trucks? The film is set next to one of those long dusty highways that are so common in Spain. Of course there are trucks. Take my tip, go to Spain, rent a car, drive between nearly any two big cities, stay in a motel at the side of the road, try and sleep - you will get the idea.
I was browsing through the library and I happen to stumble upon Bigas Luna's Jamon Jamon. The decision to give this film a watch was due to the fact that I wanted to be spontaneous and wanted to expand my mind to uncharted areas of cinema.
Jamon Jamon is a blend of many tones and wraps it around a tale of love, social class, and vulnerability. With every scene, one cannot predict on how the characters would react, as the film plays around with them and shows aspects of these characters that are unusually interesting. The characters driven by their sexual desires and impulses with contributing factors of social class and ambition that makes each one feel different from one another. The plot itself is melodramatic, and the Bigas' execution and the performances of his cast promotes this, leaving me at times cringing or sighing, but every once in a while he manages to surprise me with minor character development and raw magnetism from the film's cast. Jamon Jamon does not try to be luscious or sexually intimidating, instead it plays around with it, adding a comedic element to the character's reactions that keeps it from being overly serious or dramatic; which is why I find this film hilarious that when physical intimacy is not shown on screen, the film becomes operatic, but when it does start to get steamy, it manages to become funnily natural.
A central issue that I had with this film is the plot's lack of direction, not exactly knowing on what it is trying to say. Luna gives the material layers of symbolism and profound ideas but it gets lost in the fundamental narrative, leaving me only engaged with the superficial aspects of the film. The film's ending becomes dramatic to the point where one cannot empathise with the relationships portrayed on screen, but it never reached to a level of being frustrating.
Jamon Jamon marks the debut of the now-acclaimed Spanish actress Penelope Cruz. She was the perfect fit as this woman who is desirable and beautiful but she allows the character to not get lost in her physical sexuality; emotions and intelligence were fleshed out, allowing the decisions that she makes feel plausible. I found her performance to be brave, especially when it comes to the sexual aspects of the film, as it is clear that she is game for it and performs these scenes without boasting her own physical attractiveness; she keeps herself within the role and works hard to maintain strong emotional chemistry with her male partners. Javier Bardem, playing a man who is hired to seduce Cruz's character, was fine in the role but I have seen roles from him that are far more complex and through those he shows unrestrained dedication, while here he manages to scrape by with his inherent sexuality and does enough with it to keep his performance from feeling too stale.
Jamon Jamon was a challenging film, even if its storyline is cliché and melodramatically executed, as it manages to provide thought provoking imagery and situations, though it doesn't quite justify itself by the end, and supported by the astonishing leading performance from Penelope Cruz.
(1992) Jamón Jamón/ A Tale of Ham and Passion
(In Spanish with English subtitles)
Starring veteran Spanish actress Penelope Cruz as Silvia who works at her boyfriend's men's underwear factory. And during one of their secret hookups, Silvia then informs her boyfriend that she is expecting. And instead of her boyfriend telling her controlling mother all about it since his mother hates Silvia and her family's guts because she thinks that Silvia is only a gold digger. Motivates the mother to hire a person named Raul (Javier Bardem) to see if he can shift Silvia's attraction to him instead and leave her son alone except that she too becomes infatuated with Raul as well.
At first it appears to look like the Spanish variation of "Romeo & Juliet" but it becomes much more than that. Both Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz who're a real life couple weren't household names in North America during the time of this movie yet and were just starting to make their mark. But by looking at the big picture, if you take away all the full frontal nudity particularly Barden's privates both back and front and Cruz's breasts and rear end this movie would be left with nothing else except to be another 'soap opera' people can see all the time since it also includes both the boyfriend's mother and father making passes at people their children's age, the Barden character screwing not just the girlfriend but also the mother as well. We can only come up with so much that nothing seems to surprise us or anyone else for that matter anymore.
2 out of 4 stars
This was the first pairing of future spouses: Javier Bardem who, with his above the waist outfit could be considered as a predecessor to male characters from Twilight and Penelope Cruz. She plays a poor young girl Sylvia, who gets pregnant by her rich boyfriend Hoze Luis. Now, I know the thought of an abortion proposition immediately came to your minds, but no! Hoze Luis actually turns out to be quite noble and wants to marry Sylvia. The problem is his lack of spine, as he is not capable to fully confront his obsessive mother (Stefania Sandrelli) who thinks her son could do much better. She hires Raul Gonzales (Bardem) to seduce Sylvia and separate her from Hoze Luis. That intention is short lived as the mother soon starts to feel attracted to Raul and wants him all to her self. If anyone has seen few telenovelas, this kind of plot is familiar.
Speaking of that, the whole movie, in writing, with its one-dimensional characters, is a soap opera material which had to be elevated by director Bigas Luna in some way. Apparently, the most creative way he could think of was to throw in great amount of nudity and sex scenes. Most of them are pointless because the whole film is like that, and they are not very sexy to begin with. During the one between Raul and Sylvia I honestly thought that her contractions started. After that experience, she needn't worry about giving birth. It couldn't possibly be as painful as that sounded.
Javier Bardem has proven him self as a terrific actor over the years, but this is the single most uninteresting character I have ever seen him play. The fact that his Raul gets all the ladies shows us that Luna doesn't have much respect for women in general. By that I mean mostly on Cruz character, who should be the most sympathetic person here, but the script just doesn't give her credit.
I honestly don't know what Luna was getting to with most of the stuff he threw in here. There are a few musical moments which suggest his desire for a certain kind of mood or emotion, but I wasn't able to name it because he didn't achieve it in the scenes, and couldn't feel it because I didn't feel sympathy for none of the characters.
When it was all over, I realized that Jamon Jamon didn't do anything for me. It didn't even change my perception about the possibilities of using a ham. If I ever find myself in a situation where protection of my integrity is necessary, I think I will rather choose more conventional, already proven weapons.