Thursday, 26 November 2009

Princesas, Fernando Leon de Aranoa, Spain 2005

Princasas, which I saw last night, was an amazing discovery, a simply wonderful film about a Madrid-based prostitute and her colleagues and their experiences. At times, Princasas almost feels like a documentary as the camera accompanies and observes Caye, Caren, and Pilar on their various love-for-sale exploits. Yet, the film carefully avoids voyeurism, nor is it ever exploitative. What it also does avoid is sentimentality, and given the film's topic de Aranoa - who since Las lunes al sol has been hailed as Spain's next big thing - would have had plenty of opportunity to go that way. The good news is, he didn't!

Princesas is ultimately a character study of Caye, played by the wonderful Candela Pena (All About My Mother), her life and background. Without pitying her and her lot, the film nevertheless leaves any doubt that it was the circumstances under which she was raised that turned her into a prostitute, and over the course of the film, she gradually comes to terms with her life and, particularly, her past.

Rather racist at the film's beginning, Caye and her Spanish colleagues look down on the prostitutes from Africa, eager to defend their terrain against them, the immigrants. It is clear that Caye's racism is based, first of all, on the fact that knowing that she's at the bottom of the social ladder, her African colleagues are even lower, thus making her, Caye, feel better about herself. The other reason why Caye hates and fights them is because they are taking away some of her customers, or so she thinks, especially since they're to be had for less than Caye and her Spanish colleagues. However, much to the distress of Pilar, eventually Caye and the hated (illegal) immigrant Zulema strike up a friendship, thus making Princesas also a truly wonderful, moving and authentic film about the triumph of friendship over love, or, as can happen sometimes, of the merging of the two.

Princesas is out on DVD.