Krámpack (2000) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white: 

Krámpack (2000) is a Spanish coming of age film about two best friends, both 17. Dani is wealthy, with liberal parents, and lives in a seaside resort. Nico, who has been his best friend for a long while, comes from Barcelona to spend time with him while his parents are vacationing in Egypt. During the day, a housekeeper and a female tutor are there, but at night, the boys are on their own. The film is based on a popular play named Krámpack, a term for mutual masturbation. This is something Nico and Dani engage in, but the two feel very differently. Nico considers it a convenient outlet until he can seduce a woman, while Dani discovers that Nico is all he ever wants.

The two meet two girls their own age, and start double dating. The two girls, played by Marieta Orozco and Esther Nubiola are after the same thing the boys are that summer -- losing their virginity. Nico and Orozco become increasingly closer, while the relationship between Dani and Nubiola is strained at best. Dani even goes so far as to enter her after she passes out, but finds he has no real interest. Meanwhile, Nico and Orozco move inevitably toward losing their virginity together, and Dani realizes that Nico will never feel the same way about him. Orozco shows her breasts in  the climactic love scene.

The film opened to rave reviews and lots of awards on the festival circuit, and is now available on DVD in the original uncut version. I can't imagine that the MPAA would ever have given a rating which would have permitted a theatrical release. The film deals honestly and non-judgmentally with teenage sexuality, both hetero and gay. 

Though there are intense moments in the film, at the end of the day, they are teenagers, and life goes on. The film strikes a wonderful balance between the comic and the serious, and is elevated from the ordinary by great performances all around. Like most of the Spanish films I have seen, the cinematography and set decoration is wonderful.  

Scoopy's comments in yellow: 

This one was sort of interesting to me academically, because I thought the film was completely unrealistic and therefore not a good coming-of-age film, but many people - not just Tuna - praised its close-to-the-bone honesty.

I guess I missed out on an important part of the naďveté you're supposed to have when you are coming of age, but there is never a time when my lack of sexual knowledge would have generated the experiences in this film, or anything like it. Nico is completely hetero. Dani has been his best friend since they were little kids. They have been engaging in mutual masturbation (krampack) since they were capable. Now they are engaged in what I guess you might call variations on that. One night Dani gives Nico a blow job. Another night, Dani suggests that Nico fuck him. Now, if you were Nico, would you sense that this was perhaps not typical behavior between friends? I have a hard time believing that, at 17, I'd just be passive if my best friend blew me, or if I'd co-operate if he asked to be buggered. Sorry, I just don't buy Nico's role in this.

Now, mind you, you have to do a European to American conversion, just like with the metric system. Europeans are much slower in their socio-sexual development than the kids are in America. I suppose it is possible that two 17 year old European heterosexuals might still be jerking each other off as part of the developmental stage of their lives. I don't know. I guess it is possible, though I can't imagine it. It seems to me that the gay kid's behavior is plausible. After all, he'd still want to jerk his friend off at 17, or at any age,  but the reactions of his friend are completely unbelievable.

On the other hand, some 17 year olds that I met in Norway did still seem like little kids - the girls still playing with their dolls, and the boys still riding their bikes together. I'm not unaware of this difference in our cultures. So the kids who are supposed to be 17 in the story, are actually about 12-13 by American standards, and you Americans can probably relate to the film better if you think of the heterosexual as a 12 year old still struggling with sexual emergence, not really sure what constitutes the borderline of normal experimentation. But I don't think you can see them as 12 year olds in the year 2000. You probably would have to imagine that it takes place in 1959 or something to make it seem remotely plausible.


see the main commenary
 When I was 17 I was far more sophisticated than these kids, but I was a naive 17 year old by the standards of a very naive era. Today's 17 year old boys in America are about ten times more sexually sophisticated than I was, so they will find this story completely implausible and unrecognizable, and I can't swear that Europeans will buy into it either. Even by Euro standards, I think the kids are miswritten, and should be 14 or 15, not 17.

I also thought that two of the kids were completely wooden actors. The kid who played Dani has only one facial expression, and delivered every single line in a monotone. The girl who seduced Nico was similarly weak and inexpressive. Fortunately, the other two were absolutely excellent. I'm surprised that the kid who played Nico wasn't nominated for more awards. He carried the entire movie. The girl who got stuck with the gay guy on the double dates did an excellent, sensitive job in a small role.

One somewhat strange occurrence in the film is that Dani, the gay guy, rapes one of the girls one night after she passes out drugged. He's just fulfilling his adolescent curiosity. He loses interest in the middle of the rape, which is poignant, and maybe that's credible, but the rape produces no consequences in the script. The girl seems unaware of it, or if she is aware of having lost her virginity, she never mentions it! That is, after all, a major event in one's life. In this respect, her character seems to be nothing more than a convenient plot device, not a real person. Once again, where is that reality that is supposed to be there?

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Making-of featurette

  • interviews with cast and directors

The plot is real in the sense that it is a slice-of-life with no contrivances or forced conclusions. At the end of the film, the two boys have obviously realized how different they are, but there are no hard feelings about any of their experiences, and they joke around like the friends they have always been. That ending, reasonable and undramatic, was true to life. I suppose I can vouch for that one. I found out years after college that a guy I roomed with for two years had came out of the closet. I suppose he was the best friend I ever had, and we were still living in the same city when he came out, and I'm pretty sure that it never affected our relationship in the slightest. We just went on as we always had, just like the kids here.

I suppose my objections to the rest of the film must relate to the fact that I am odd, and the film must be normal, because after I finished scoffing about the complete lack of reality in the script, as exemplified both in Nico's reactions, and in the girl not knowing or caring that she lost her cherry, I read several reviews (including Tuna's) which contend that it was a realistic treatment of adolescent sexual confusion and experimentation. Despite that new-found awareness on my part, I just can't recommend the movie because it is so far from anything that I can imagine between 17 year olds that it seems to me to come from another planet, not another country. I found more reality in Motorama.

But, judging from other comments, I suppose that tells you more about me than about the film.

The Critics Vote

  • Ebert 3/4

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 84% positive reviews

  • nominated for three Goyas (Spanish equivalent of Oscar), but no wins

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5 
  • With their dollars ... it took in $347,000 in a sort of arthouse distribution.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, I have to give this one a B, but with a warning. If you are at all homophobic, you will not like this film. If the homosexual content does not put you off, I can't imagine you not enjoying this as much as I did. I look forward to Cesk Gay's next effort, as he certainly proved his talent directing this one. (Scoopy says C - OK coming of age film, with strengths and weaknesses in balance. See main comments)

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