Fiesta (1995 – Pierre Boutron)

From José Luis de Villalonga’s autobiographical novel, published the same year the film was released, writer-director Pierre Boutron’s Fiesta centers on two characters: 17-year-old Rafael de Los Cobos, whose father has him whisked out of his French military school when the Spanish Civil War breaks out; Colonel Masagual, his superior officer who trains this ‘idealistic little aristocrat’ for duty at the front by adding him to Franco’s execution squad. There are a few potent images – the angled overhead shot of blood red-capped soldiers mopping up the blood after two consecutive rows of executions, ironically suggesting that no amount of such effort can ever fully do the job. What principally commends the film, however, are the pungent dialogues and the brilliant lead performances by Grégoire Colin and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Masagual is one of the most fascinating roles of Trintignant’s career – homosexual, but where this orientation isn’t the most pressing matter. Alcoholic and drug-addicted, Masagual is sufficiently embittered to mentor Rafael sadistically, bullying him into becoming a cold-blooded killer (and, incidentally, rapist). Perhaps the lowest blow he strikes in this regard comes when he tells the boy that he himself has never killed anyone. Indeed, the sparring between these two is continually irrigated by rivulets of sharp irony

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