Manolete | Mistress of a Matador
DIRECTOR: Menno Meyjes | WRITER: Menno Meyjes | CAST: Adrien Brody, Penélope Cruz, Santiago Segura, Josep Linuesa, Juan Echanove, Ann Mitchell, Tomas Rozzi, Nacho Aldeguer | Spain
An article in the February 25, 2013, The New Yorker about Spain’s economic crisis deals in part with a vulgarian construction magnate named Francisco Hernando — “better known as Paco El Pocero, the Sewer Man, for his teenage work with his father unclogging drains” — who comes across sort of as an Iberian Donald Trump. One sentence concerning his social climbing stood out: “He dabbled in the movies: he financed a 2008 biopic of Manolete, starring Adrien Brody and Penélope Cruz.” A recent Spanish movie about the one of the most famous bullfighters of the 20th century and with name actors in the lead roles that I’d never even heard of? IMDb revealed that after being shown at a couple of film festivals in 2008 and 2009, Manolete sat on the shelf until it was released on DVD in 2010. So of course I had to seek it out. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook just after watching it:
I watched the French release of a trashy Spanish movie that was shot in English; my copy had French opening and end credits and burned-in Dutch subtitles: MANOLETE, about the legendary Spanish bullfighter of that name who was fatally gored in the arena in 1947. Adrien Brody, that most snarlingly aggressive hetero macho man alive (ha!) played Manolete; Penélope Cruz — whose reputation as an actress completely mystifies me — played his mistress. It’s pretty bad, but I’m giving it an extra point because I like looking at Adrien Brody very much; and a bonus point on top of that because I like looking at Adrien Brody wearing a traje de luces even more.
I really can’t add much more than that Adrien Brody bears a remarkable resemblance to Manolete, but I didn’t for a moment believe him as a bullfighter. And I’ve already gone into what I think about bullfighting in general when I wrote about the seriously excellent film Il momento della verità so I won’t go into that here.