Following the death of her father, who provided for the family, young stylist Leo (the director Amalia Ulman) and her kleptomaniac mother Maria (played by Ulman’s mother Ale) are trying to avoid eviction from an apartment in the Spanish city of Gijón. Despite impressive debts for public services, the two stoically maintain a bourgeois facade, continuing to order pastry delivery, having beauty treatments, and renting dresses and shoes. Argentine artist Amalia Ulman’s feature-length debut is a tragicomic and empathetic portrait of today’s twenty-year-olds, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Garage Screen summer cinema presents the Russian premiere.
The film is named after a real-life restaurant, to which the protagonists, using their connections, go to taste luxury dishes. This outing, featuring Leo in a zebra-print suit and Maria in a maxi fur coat, perfectly describes the paradoxical life of a mother and daughter amid Spain’s major economic recession. Maria has never really worked and Leo has no idea what to do in life: her occupations are so precarious that she bargains with a man on the Internet about the cost of her sex services in one scene, while getting an invitation to produce a Christina Aguilera shoot in New York in another. Ironically, her full name, Leonor, is also the name of the current Princess of Asturias, who, according to the film’s plot, is going to present an award to Martin Scorsese, with pomp and camera flashes, in a neighboring town. This subplot further reinforces the heroines’ inherent sense of class difference and life in denial.
Known for artistic speculations (most notably an Instagram account where she played out a luxurious lifestyle by sneaking into posh restaurants and hotels), Ulman continues to explore beauty standards and gender stereotypes, adding romantic incidents with Leo’s main love interest, Amadeus—played by China’s Zhou Chen, famous for his role in last year’s Rotterdam Festival award winner The Cloud in Her Room—who works in a second-hand shop in Gijón and as an intern in the Paris Balenciaga boutique. Combined with playfully ironic montage, an eccentric soundtrack by Chicken, and a muted palette, transferred into soft black-and-white Almodovarian mode, El Planeta presents a stunningly accurate portrait of a generation, a society living for the moment on Xanax but still constructing its own utopias, no matter how fragile and shaky they might be.
The film will be screened in Spanish and English with Russian subtitles.
Dir. Amalia Ulman
USA, Spain, 2021. 79 min. 16+