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Fausto 5.0 (2001)
Directors: Àlex Ollé, Isidro Ortiz and Carlos Padrissa

review by Paul Higson

Perhaps it is my suspicious nature but I am beginning to think that few, if any, of the English language reviewers have actually seen this. One gets the impression that the first reviewer caught it half-drunk at a festival and every subsequent review has been a lazy extraction from that. So let us attempt to break these Chinese whispers before they can do any more damage. Damage, I say, because this is a foreign language film that has escaped the art house cinemas due to a promising British Film Council initiative that has put foreign language films on screens at the UGC, and if the only reviews that Fausto 5.0 receives continue to misreport the film to be obfuscating in its determination to be experimental and a visual but confounding treat, then a lot of people are going to be put off seeing a film that is in fact intelligent and accessible entertainment.
   The best way to describe Fausto 5.0 is to ask that you imagine Bedazzled had it been remade by David Fincher. Past reviews have also failed to promote the comedy in this product. The dialogue is rich with humour but then cinema has hardly failed to represent the devil as short of a funny bone. This is a fairly straightforward updating of the legend of Faust and Marguerite, only Doctor Faust (Miguel Ángel Solá) is a veteran researcher into terminal medicine, the effects of which are taking their toll on his general mental and physical well being. It's a little into the unhealthy future and the rut is a big one. Talgo have a crew at every major train station seemingly to quickly remove the body parts from the front of the expresses trains and important buildings are covered with plastic sheets to keep the wind borne viruses from the more important members of society, though nobody is regarded of real individual importance now. There is little consideration for others, life is dispensable and given the practice arena there is no evidence of palliative responsibilities on the trained medical staff. On the platform in Barcelona he is accosted by Santos Vella, (Eduard Fernández), a fellow with a sinister air who claims to recognise Faust as the doctor that operated on his tumour eight years before. Faust does not recognise him. "Perhaps without the [operation] mask?" No. He is hardly demurring. "Ah, well! It was an intense sudden relationship, after all!" Then, "What did they do with my stomach? Have they still got it?" It would have gone into the waste bin. "What!"
   Santos Vella is a walking miracle and should have been dead on the table. Faust is suspicious of him, increasingly so as their paths unbelievable continue to cross. Santos is, of course, the devil, and it is a crowd-pleasing turn by Fernández, who in 2002 took the best actor Goya for this film (having already secured best actor at Sitges in 2001 and shared the acting prize with Solá for the film at Fantasporto in 2002) and what would appear set to become a career and a half is in motion. Faust is attending a terminal medicine conference and it is a tasteless affair, the blackest of humour and nasty japes, a thematic stand-up entertains the conference, closing his spot with a heart attack. A lot of ugly surprises are set-up, the viewer can safely assume that the devil is behind them, and the amusing fellow is beginning to show his dangerous and disturbing side. The temptations are too much for Faust and the resulting embarrassments anger our tired hero into a response, misbehaviour and the living of life, something that dealing with the dead and dying had gradually eroded from him. The darkest of desires are traipsed out before him, destructiveness and illicit lust. The cruel devil is out to torment Faust now.
   Nadwa Nimri is the longstanding research assistant Julie that Faust has denied notice of as a woman, that is until life had been returned to him, and the Devil has invited her to town with the promise that he intends on doing what Faust has failed to do, "to take care of her." It is a thankless role for Nimri, normally in the midst of the fun in her films. Some of the future trimmings have a touch of las modernas about them, a tacky throwback to the post-Franco youth culture of Spain, but perhaps that too is intentional and there is little else to complain about. This is the troupe's fifth approach of the subject having already seen it through stages that include 'text theatre' (Fausto Version 3.0), 'digital theatre' (Faust Shadow) and an operatic form (La Condenaci´┐Żn de Fausto) and mark 5 should be good given the years exploring the themes and likely carrying over the best; it would have been embarrassing had it not been solid, quality entertainment.
   The film is the first cinematic work of the Catalan theatrical troupe La Fura dels Baus who recently made headlines in London with their simulated sex antics in XXX at the Riverside Studios, so guaranteeing house-rocking ticket sales for the entirety of their run (in that it wasn't the cancer thrown in the bin but the mother with the sewn up vagina). These provocateurs could never be described as dull and it is therein perhaps that they have drawn the greatest reprehension, that their bag of tricks may be nought without their excesses. The generosity of intelligent humour and the visual exploration tell me otherwise. This is not an obfuscating package at all but a busy bag of forbidden fun, the full content of which is barely touched upon by this review. I leave you to explore it at your leisure and possibly your pleasure.
Fausto 5.0

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