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As Luck Would Have It ("La chispa de la vida ")

Canadian Premiere
  • Spain
  • 2012
  • 98 mins
  • 35mm
  • Spanish
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection, Berlin International Film Festival 2012
Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival 2012

“Mordantly funny and sharp as a razor” — Gabe Toro, INDIEWIRE

There was a time when Roberto (José Mota of the TORRENTE films) was a top man in the advertising world. A hero. A legend. Today, though, the once-hip idea man is an unemployed middle-aged outcast struggling to stay relevant in a heartlessly corporatized world. At home, Roberto does everything possible to avoid letting his wife Luisa (Salma Hayek) see how desperate their finances have become. And then, his fortunes change — Roberto has a terrible accident that finds him with a metal spike impaled through his head, anchoring him to the ground. He’s fully conscious but cannot safely be moved. A tragedy! Well, no, not entirely. An old-school ad man, Roberto immediately sees the good in what most others would consider a gruesomely horrible situation. He will use everything he’s ever mastered in playing the media and the public to spin this in his favour, manipulating the worst instincts that modern culture has in order to come out ahead, regardless of whether or not he ultimately comes out alive.

Maverick Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia (the man behind such one-of-a-kind classics as DAY OF THE BEAST, PERDITA DURANGO, ACCION MUTANTE and FERPECT CRIME) returns with another oddball gem. This is Billy Wilder’s ACE IN THE HOLE (with a touch of DEATH OF A SALESMAN!) reinvented for today’s world as an absurdist comedy. He drives the film with ample helpings of poetic irony and straight-faced surrealism, then delivers heartfelt moments of anguish and drama to give surprising power to a premise that could otherwise be considered ridiculous. This is a story about sacrifice and the exploitation of cynicism for a greater good. It’s also a film about how our culture gauges masculinity through a person’s ability to comfortably support a family and the detrimental effects that unwinnable economic realities can have on a man’s self-image. As social critique, the film is obvious — something that could be a downfall in the hands of a lesser director, but de la Iglesia is a master and he plays his hand beautifully. His casting choices are beat-perfect as ever. Hayek is especially terrific, as is Carolina Bang, re-teaming with de la Iglesia after her phenomenal turn in 2010’s THE LAST CIRCUS. As a bonus, look for brief appearances by Santiago Segura and TIMECRIMES director/star Nacho Vigalondo!

— Mitch Davis