Sunday, 9 June 2013

Lali Espinet, tragic heroine of the 'S' years: "El Pico" 1 & 2 [Spain 1983, 1984]

Those were heady days in Spain - the late 70's and early 80's - the economy was booming, the country was busy catching up on lost time, and newly won liberties were enthusiastically celebrated, which allowed hitherto hidden film-talents to blossom. In parallel to the 'mainstream' scene that included directors like Victor Erice, Eloy de la Iglesia, Pedro Almodóvar, and Fernando Trueba, a different category of films emerged - the Spanish equivalent for the European soft-core cinema of the era - they were simply called Classified 'S'.

Lali Espinet:
The beautiful young actress Lali Espinet, better known by her industry name, Andrea Albani, was one of the leading starlets in classified 'S' films. And since I won't be writing about any of those films here, I'll give a brief summary of a couple of mainstream films that Ms. Espinet appeared in; films where the character she portrays also echoed her own addiction to drugs in real-life. "El Pico 2" was the last film she made before her untimely death ten years later (rumoured, due to complications from AIDS).

Eloy de la Iglesia:
The two films, both "El Pico" and "El Pico 2" were directed by Eloy de la Iglesia, a strident gay director who was known for his neo-realist style social commentaries, often centred around urban youth living on the fringes of society. While Spain was booming, he chose to focus on those who were left out, living under the bridge, struggling to make it - the delinquents, the homosexuals, the thieves and misfits. Misuse of drugs, religion, and politics often feature prominently in his films. Like the characters in El Pico, Iglesia too went through a long period of drug addiction, but he did manage to kick the habit towards the end of his life. The same could not be said of the lead actor in these two films - José Luis Manzano died at only twenty eight, due to a suspected drug overdose.


El Pico [1983]

Eloy de la Iglesia's 1983 film "El Pico" [Eng. Title: The Needle] may not be as accomplished as some of his earlier films, but it did rather well commercially despite its grim depiction of drug abuse among the middle classes of the city of Bilbao. Paco (José Luis Manzano) - son of a Commander of the Civil Guard (Jose Manuel Cervino), and Urko (Javier Garcia) - son of a ruling party senator (Luis Iriondo) are close college friends, and together, hang out with young Argentinian prostitute Betty (Lali Espinet) for drugs and sex. To feed his habit, Paco used to make money by prostituting himself, but has since moved on to selling drugs through the city's main dealer. He wants to become his own boss though, a move that'll land the boys in trouble. Paco and Urko's respective dads will also learn of their addiction and try what they can, in their own limited capacity, to support and cure them, to no avail. Paco and Urko end up killing the main dealer in order to rob his stash, and Urko dies of an overdose, leaving Paco with the prospect of being incarcerated by his own father. Recommended Viewing..!


The Nudity: Lali Espinet, Jose Luis Manzano, and Javier Garcia
Contains three scenes of nudity - the first is when Paco's father takes him to a brothel for initiating him into adulthood after he turns eighteen, unaware of the fact that the prostitute that Paco chooses is not exactly a new acquaintance - Betty is already Paco's drug and sex buddy. The second scene involves a threesome among Paco, Urko, and Betty. The third is when Betty entices Paco back into drugs after he'd been 'clean' for a few months.

Lali Espinet, Jose Luis Manzano, and Javier Garcia in El Pico (1983)


El Pico 2 [1984]

The story begins from where it was left in the previous film. We see Paco serving time after his involvement in the drug dealer's murder is established by a journalist. In prison, he befriends an inmate nicknamed El Lehendakari (Jaume Valls) and they keep in touch even after Paco's release. Paco's dad takes him to Madrid, and hopefully away from destructive influences. But Betty too had moved to Madrid to ply her trade, and the two reconnect. When Lehendakari gets out of prison, the three decide to take up armed robbery as profession. Tragedy ensues, and towards the end of the film, Paco's life will have come full-circle - it is he who's now the main drug dealer, becoming an informant for the Police, and playing a dangerous game all over again...


The Nudity: Lali Espinet, Jose Luis Manzano, and Juame Valles

Lali Espinet, Jose Luis Manzano, and Juame Valles in El Pico 2 (1984)


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