Friday, August 25, 2006

Golden Balls (1993)

Golden Balls (Bigas Luna, 1993)
Spanish Title: Huevos de oro

Bigas Luna's Golden Balls is dressed up as a melodrama about an ambitious man's rise and fall, but is really an effectively funny comedy that strips down the sexual male to the point of ridicule. The sexual male of Luna's critical eye here is Benito Gonzalez (Javier Bardem), who dreams up of erecting the tallest building in the city. Right after being cheated on by his prostitute girlfriend Rita (Elisa Tovati) for his best bud, he starts laying the groundwork for the realization of his dream. First, by hooking up with model-turned-secretary Claudia (Maribel Verdu), and pleading her to sleep with the city's banker to urge him to fund his project. When that failed, he marries the banker's daughter Marta (Maria de Medeiros). Before the film reaches its halfway mark, Benito accomplishes the two top fantasies of all men: number one, to be rich and fulfill a lifelong dream with no capital, no property, but just a set of golden balls; and number two, to have a threesome with two beautiful ladies.

However, despite the outward manliness of Benito, he's actually very inept with a some curious personality quirks. Benito, the ultra-macho man, indulges in the sappy music of Julio Iglesias. He idolizes Salvador Dali, and sees himself as artist in copulation, drawing lines and figures on the bodies of his women. He has a stern insistence that only a woman of a certain weight is perfect for his body type, and this compulsion for details and his ambition overpower his sexual libido. While his wife and his paramour start kissing and fondling, he disengages himself to remind his wife about ironing his shirt for an important business meeting the following day. His idolization of Salvador Dali is so immense to the point that when his fortune runs out, his nightmare feels very similar to Dali and Luis Bunuel's collaboration in Un Chien Andalou (The Andalusian Dog), with imagery consisting of him entrapped in gigantic testicles, ants invading a woman's genitalia, and other out-of-this-world confections.

The turn-around of Benito is so outrageous, its hilarious. He gets into a car accident which inevitably makes him less virile. He loses all his fortune, his women, and gets back a few when his right hand man falls from his building and dies, with him earning from his friend's insurance. He finally hooks up with a highly-sexual dancer (Raquel Bianca) who because of her immense breasts, are way above his weight requirement. The two of them migrate to Miami, and Benito ends up as the other guy in his girlfriend's threesome with a hired gardener (Benicio del Toro), the absolute opposite of every straight man's sexual fantasy.

The film is just so obviously patterned, so grandiosely contrived, that it's nearly impossible to take it seriously. I don't think Luna leads his viewers to treat the film as a drama but inadvertently ends up as a humorous attack on the pervading machismo that intoxicates men into thinking they're kings of the world. Luna makes use of visual innuendos throughout the film. There's a preponderance of metaphor and allusions to the phallus like the erection of the city's top building, that it's almost impossible for anyone to take any of the plot contrivances as purposely made to be taken seriously. Benito makes love to his wife and Luna pans his camera upwards to reveal a pillar, umm, a phallic symbol, and just as the end of the pillar is revealed, an orgasm is made apparent. The sex scenes are staged in overt frankness, that the artfulness of the film is upstaged by the ridiculousness. Nipples are pinched, underarms are sniffed, moanings are loud and sex talk is boisterous. And I honestly think it works best that way as Golden Balls is in a heartbeat, a really funny sexual farce, effective and highly enjoyable.

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