A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Peppermint Frappé (Carlos Saura, 1967)

Peppermint Frappé sounds like it should be a teen beach party movie, at least until you see that it's directed by Carlos Saura and dedicated to Luis Buñuel. Then you know it's going to be a somewhat kinky story with darkly comic overtones. It opens with a middle-aged man cutting pictures of fashion models out of magazines. He's Julián (José Luis López Vázquez), a physician who runs a radiology clinic with the help of his nurse, Ana (Geraldine Chaplin), who is as quiet and conservative as he is. Then he's reunited with a boyhood friend, Pablo (Alfredo Mayo), whose life is virtually the antithesis of Julián's: Pablo has been living an adventurous life in Africa, he drives a Corvette, and he has just married the smashingly pretty and vivacious Elena, who is also played by Chaplin in a tour de force performance. Eventually, Julián's jealousy of Pablo and desire for Elena will take an increasingly predictable course, as his obsession leads to an attempt to remake Ana into Elena. Not that Saura's film is ever really predictable: As a director he has too many tricks up his sleeve, so that things always stay a little off-balance, especially when Julián invites Pablo and Elena to his weekend retreat in the country, which is next to an abandoned spa where Pablo and Julián used to play as children. Saura's use of setting is masterly in this sequence. The title refers to Pablo's favorite cocktail, a crème de menthe-based concoction served over crushed ice; it's a particularly venomous shade of green not found in nature. And yes, it plays a part in the denouement. López Vázquez and especially Chaplin give terrific performances, but the movie doesn't add up to much more than a showcase for them and Saura's skewed way of telling a story.