FILM / On cinema

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Spanish comedy is the Carry On of the Nineties. It's hip, it's erotic, it's smart, it's frank to the point of porny frisson, but it's also curiously infantile, obsessed with boobs, bottoms, willies; clock Jamn Jamn and Golden Balls (with Javier Bardem, right), riots of kiddie phallic symbolism directed by the aptly monikered Bigas Luna. Here sex is fundamentally silly and gender is some sort of sick joke that mugs you when you least expect it (hence titles like How to be a Woman and Not Die in the Attempt).

Everything's a giggly try-on: the rape in Almodvar's latest, Kika, isn't meant to be taken seriously, not really, not with the victim spouting assault statistics and dissecting the sociological impact of screen violence during the attack.

It's all a long way from the intent stillness of The Spirit of the Beehive and other repressed classics made under the heavy gaze of the Franco regime. After decades of conservative rule and centuries of Catholic guilt - thou will not have an orgasm - the new Spanish cinema gives vent to every stifled desire. No impulse is denied: in the reviled but compulsive Accin Mutante, even the disabled turn terrorist and take gleeful revenge on an uncaring world.

There may be a serious message hiding somewhere, but everything's hyperbole and cartoon caricature and ya boo sucks; bad boys and girls letting loose after biting their tongues for too long. This can be glorious but it's also getting a tad tiring. Franco went in 1975 - 19 years on is surely enough time to have grown up a little; and perhaps to realise that rape isn't automatically funny, except in the most mindless of playgrounds.

(Photograph omitted)

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