• Eloy De la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: August 24th, 2021.
    Director: Eloy de la Iglesia
    Cast: José Luis Manzano, Isela Vega, Jaime Garza, Javier Garcia, José Manuel Cervino, Luis Iriondo, Fernando Guillén, Lali Espinet
    Year: 1981/1983/1984
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    Eloy de la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection – Movie Review:

    Severin Films gathers together three of the late Eloy de la Iglesia ‘s quincallero (pronounced ‘kinky’) films. Essentially the Spanish equivalent of juvenile delinquent pictures, these early eighties efforts each star José Luis Manzano and depicts, with gritty realism, the world that Spanish youth found themselves inheriting after the fall of the Franco regime. These films get their official English-friendly home video releases with this important two-disc set.

    Navajeros:

    The first film, 1981’s Navajeros (which translates to ‘Knifers’), revolves around a character named José Manuel Gomez Perales, referred to as El Jaro (José Luis Manzano, who was romantically involved with Eloy de la Iglesia), a young, teenaged leftist revolutionary with a criminal history who, like his older brother before him, has done some time behind bars for his actions. EL Jaro lives with a middle aged prostitute named Mercedes (Isela Vega from Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia) and leads a small gang of three other friends - El Butano (Jamie Garza), Jhonny (Pep Corominas) and El Chus - who seem to spend most of their time committing petty crimes and running from the cops. When El Jaro gets his hands on a gun, they promptly head over to a nicer part of town and rob some gay men that the find on the streets.

    When El Jaro meets Toñi (Verónica Castro), Chus’ sister, he falls for her fast, to the point where she’s very quickly able to have a pretty big influence on him and the decisions that he makes. Toñi, a heroin addict, talks El Jaro and the rest of his small crew into upping the stakes in their criminal behavior and when they oblige, they find themselves going up against El Marqués (Enrique San Francisco), a gangster with a lot more experience and a lot less compassion than anyone in El Jaro’s gang can claim.

    José Luis Manzano (who would himself die of a heroin overdose in 1992 at only twenty-nine years old in Eloy de la Iglesia’s apartment) is a natural in this film. Though he wasn’t even twenty when he made this film, his performance is believable and engaging and he’s got enough charisma to basically carry the picture. It’s also very cool to see the always charming Isela Vega show up here. Her character is a good twenty years older than Manzano’s but they have a good chemistry in the scenes that they share together. The rest of the cast does strong work here as well.

    Eloy de la Iglesia, who was gay himself in his personal life, paces the picture well and isn’t afraid to tackle issues of the day head on. Homosexuality is depicted here in a couple of scenes, and the film deals with rape, drug abuse and the class struggle. It wears its politics on its sleeve but doesn’t ever come across as particularly heavy handed, rather, it feels realistic. It has a very gritty feel and it is nicely photographed and features good production values.

    El Pico:

    Eloy de la Iglesia’s work with José Luis Manzano proved quite popular, with Colegas (not included in this set) made a year after the success of Navajeros, which then lead to 1983’s El Pico (The Peak or The Needle), which would wind up being the director’s most successful film.

    Set in Basque County, the film, introduces us to Paco (Manzano again) and Urko (Javier Garcia), a pair of friends who went to school together. Despite coming from different background, Paco's father working for the Civil Guard and being decidedly right wing and Urko's father a leftist politician hoping to have Basque gain independence, they get along extremely well. They're also heroin addicts routinely sleeping with an Argentinian hooker named Betty (Lali Espinet). In order to pay for their addictions, they meet up with a dealer named El Cojo (Ovidi Montilor) and start selling for him. Meanwhile, Paco strikes up a friendship with Mikel Orbea (San Francisco again), a sculptor who he occasionally has sex with and who is hoping to get Paco to get clean.

    Paco's father, Evaristois (José Manuel Cervino), worries about his terminally ill mother but still manages to take his son to a brothel when he turns eighteen. Paco keeps the money and hangs out with Betty instead. When Paco saves his father from an assassination attempt, things start looking up but soon his drug use begins to intensify and he begins pilfering pain killers that his mother needs to deal with her cancer. Paco and his father get into a fight and Paco winds up living with Mikel, but only on the condition that he stop using. Evaristois, is bound to find the people that have got his son hooked in the first place.

    Surprising in its realistic and, at times, quiet sympathetic portrayal of drug addiction, El Pico is another gritty and well-made look at the troubles that Spanish youth were dealing with at the time. With no prospects and little reason to stay out of trouble, it’s easy see why Paco, Urko and Berry would turn to drugs to escape their dreary day-to-day existence, and we can even understand why heterosexual Paco would take comfort with Mikel, particularly when things go from bad to worse with a father who loves him but clearly doesn’t understand or sympathize with him.

    Once again the acting is very strong, with the relationships between the main characters very nicely fleshed out. de la Iglesia’s pacing is solid here as well, and the movie makes very good use of some interesting locations and also benefits from a really good score from composer Luis Iriondo

    El Pico 2:

    The last film in the set was made fairly quickly after the first film did very well at the box office. In this last film in the collection, Manzano reprises his role as Paco who, when the movie begins, is understandably distraught about how things turned out in the last half of El Pico. Trying to get off dope but having big problem coping with the withdrawal symptoms, he moves with Evaristo (now played by Fernando Guillén) to Madrid to live with Paco's grandmother (Rafaela Aparicio) and her maid Adela (Gracta Morales), neither of whom realize Paco is an addict, instead believing he is diabetic. As Paco starts treatment for his problems, a journalist named Miguel Caballero (Fermin Cabal) starts trying to figure out how a certain drug dealer wound up dead. Paco is identified by a witness and, after confessing, winds up in prison.

    Paco is instantly taken advantage of in prison, though he does luck out when he befriends El Pirri (José Luís Fernández), who introduces him to El Lehendakari (Jaume Valls), the leader of the Basque gang. El Lehendakari takes a liking to Paco and moves him and El Pirri into his own cell already occupied by his transexual partner. It isn't long before Paco, who is briefly happy when Betty (Lali Espinet, reprising her role from the first movie) shows up to visit him, and El Pirri get ahold of some heroin, however, and while his father works with a lawyer on the outside to get Paco out of prison, Paco winds up on the wrong side of a dangerous inmate named El Tejas (Valentin Paredes). Paco eventually makes it out of prison, only to find that life outside is no easier for him, despite his well-intentioned father's best intentions.

    Strong stuff, to be sure, but El Pico 2, like its predecessor, is a really expertly crafted picture that boasts very solid acting from a gifted cast and good production values. The cinematography is quite good and the score from Joaquín Carmona does a nice job of accenting everything a good score should accent. It works well as a standalone movie but obviously plays better if you see the first picture, given that it ties in directly to the events that take place in that earlier effort. In fact, they actually work very well together, two parts of a cohesive whole.

    The films in this collection are all worth seeing. Very well made with great acting, tackling important social issues that remain relevant even today and that hit even harder than they might have when you consider how the films’ leading man’s life played out.

    Eloy de la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Eloy De la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection to region free Blu-ray in a two disc set with each film presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, each film scanned from the original 35mm negatives. Navajeros gets 24GBs of space on the first 50GB disc in the set, with El Pico getting 23GBs and El Pico 2 23.8GBs of space on a shared 50GB disc. Picture quality looks pretty strong here, with nice detail, depth and texture noticeable throughout. The elements were clearly in nice shape as aside from some small, random white specks here and there the transfers are almost pristine. The colors can look unusually greenish and a little yellowish at times but otherwise, things shape up very nicely here. There aren’t any issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement issues and compression artifacts are thankfully kept to a minimum.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 tracks, each one in the film’s native Spanish, come with optional English subtitles. The audio is pretty solid, properly balanced and clean sounding. No problems with any audible hiss or distortion to note. An optional Dolby Digital 2.0 track, also in English, is included on the disc as well.

    Extra features for Navajeros include José Sacristán On Eloy de la Iglesia which is a nine minute interview with actor José Sacristán. He speaks here about the political climate in which these films were made, how he met de la Iglesia and how he came to work with him on El Diputado, some of the controversy that surrounded their efforts (some of which stemmed from the director's homosexuality), his thoughts on balancing the commercial and artistic sides of filmmaking, what it was like shooting Naverjos on location in some rough neighborhoods, some of the issues that the film addresses that are still a problem today and how Eloy was essentially a cinematic kamikaze when it came to getting his ideas and views on screen.

    The extras for El Pico include Blood In The Streets: The Quinqui Film Phenomenon which is an interview with Quinqui historians Mery Cuesta and Tom Whittaker. Here, over the span of forty-five minutes they explain the Quinqui films phenomena and put these pictures into their proper socio-political context. They make the case that, despite the sex and violence featured in the movies, these are more than just exploitation pictures. They explain the origin of the term 'Quinqui,' cover the political state of Spain at this time and the turmoil that was coming out of the country, the rampant poverty that was a factor in certain areas of the country, the rise of youth gangs and how it all led to a cinematic movement in the late seventies that lasted into the mid-eighties. Along the way we get clips from and thoughts on different movies in this genre, insight into Eloy de al Iglesia's work in the genre and its importance to it, how the films compare to pictures like the Warriors and Scum, biographical details on some of the key players in the scene, the depiction of drug use and sex in the films, the box office success of some of this pictures and quite a bit more. This is an excellent overview and very illuminating.

    The main extra for El Pico 2 is Queerness, Crime, And The Basque Conflict In The Quinqui Films Of Eloy de la Iglesia that clocks in at a lengthy sixty-seven minutes in length. This is a panel with scholars Alejandro Melero and Paul Julian Smith moderated by Evan Purchell of Ask Any Buddy done via video conferencing. They start by discussing de la Iglesia's early work and his work in genre cinema, the success of films that depicted homosexuality in Spain, how the Marxist movement got irate about these films as they felt that they were distracting from the class struggle, the legal and illegal distribution of his films and how his work has come to be really appreciated over the last few years, how de la Iglesia was treated by the press in his day, the success of the Quinqui films, the depictions of gay characters in his work and sometimes the equalization of gay male characters in the movie, the use of sex and drug use as a metaphor in his work, how de la Iglesia's work compares to Pasolini's work, the depictions of certain ideologies in the director's work in both gay and straight characters and plenty more.

    The only extras on the second disc are trailers for El Pico and El Pico 2. Both discs include menus and chapter selection options.

    Eloy de la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection – The Final Word:

    Eloy de la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection brings three rarely scene films to English friendly high definition presentations with a great selection of extra features that put all of this into some very important historical and critical context. The movies themselves are all very well made, finding the right mix of arthouse style, exploitation and legitimately compelling drama. Highly recommended.

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