Placido (1961)

Directed by Luis Garcia Berlanga
Written by Rafael Azcona, Luis Garcia Berlanga, Jose Luis Colina, Jose Luis Font
Jet Films
First viewing/Film Struck

“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

This black comedy is a savage indictment of false charity and the state of the Spanish population in the Franco era.

A cookware company is mounting a “have a poor person to dinner” campaign on Christmas Eve.  Wealthy Spaniards are, at least superficially, enthusiastically cooperating.  When they are in private it is clear the exercise is a giant pain in the neck.  The event includes a beauty queen and a raffle of gift baskets with second-rate movie stars as “prize” dinner guests.  Elderly “poor persons” are kept out in the freezing cold for hours to welcome the movie stars.

Placido’s prized possession is his truck which he uses as a taxi and delivery van.  The family is barely making ends meet – his wife works as a restroom attendant.  Placido must make payment on his truck on this particular day or he will lose it.  All his efforts to scrape together the money or go to actually make the payment are derailed by the organizer’s demands that he drive various people around.  None of the organizer’s promises to help Placido with his dilemma will be kept.

In the meantime, the campaign is a comedy of errors capped off by a poor old person’s heart attack and forced marriage to his common law wife.

I might need to see this again to fully appreciate it.  I found myself getting irritated on Placido’s behalf rather than laughing.  The comedy might not translate well.  At any rate, it is of a very black stripe.

Placido was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Trailer (no subtitles)

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