Urbizu, Enrique


Urbizu, Enrique
(1962- )
   Enrique Urbizu's second film, Todo por la pasta (All for the Dough, 1991), was an extraordinary noir thriller, partly The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1951), partly Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991). The director sought inspiration in the world of Chester Himes, adding an entertaining mix of action and comedy. In addition, the film offered solid performances from María Barranco, Kitti Manver, and Antonio Resines, who had never been better. It starred a club dancer (Barranco) and an old people's home administrator (Manver) as two women who plan to steal the loot of a robbery. The film's originality and the director's eye for atmosphere and striking sequences (for instance in the scene in which a matriarch in a derelict housing project suspects her visitor is not the social worker she claims to be) seemed to announce a substantial career. Unfortunately, although there are glimpses of a solid talent in later projects like Cuernos de mujer (Women's Horns, 1995), La caja 507 (Box 507, 2002), and La vida mancha (Life Stains, 2003), and although he often talks about tantalizing future projects, Urbizu's promise is yet to materialize.
   Urbizu was born in Bilbao in the early 1960s, and therefore belongs to the talented generation of Basque filmmakers who reached maturity in the 1990s, which also includes Álex de la Iglesia, Julio Medem, Daniel Calparsoro, and Juanma Bajo Ulloa. He was brought up among three generations of women, which, he claims, accounts for the special interest he has in fascinating female characters. Since adolescence, he was a voracious reader, with interests ranging from comics to noir thrillers and adventure stories.
   His first film was the accomplished screwball comedy Tu novia está loca (Your Girlfriend Is Crazy, 1988). After Todo por la pasta, he seemed to enter a period of crisis and was unable to find funding for personal projects (in particular an intriguing adaptation of Jim Thomson). Cómo ser infeliz y disfrutarlo (How to Be Unhappy Enjoying It, 1994), a comedy for commercial producer Andrés Vicente Gómez, is a workmanlike adaptation of a mediocre novel starring Carmen Maura. Cachito (My Little One, 1996), adapted from one of Arturo Pérez Reverte's lesser efforts, was a conventional comedy. In 2002, La caja 507 seemed a return to form. Some of the ingredients in his previous thriller were also here: a man fighting a mysterious, violent gang and noir mood. But the film lacked the sense of humor of his earlier effort, and his grip on the complicated story seemed to falter. La vida mancha, a well-written family melodrama about the complex relationship between two brothers, was his best film in a decade, and it featured an excellent central performance by José Coronado as a successful and mysterious older brother to a working-class truck driver who comes back after many years abroad.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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