If they Tell You I Fell ...

 (aka Aventis, 1989)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Aventis are stories told by youths in Barcelona to amuse each other. They can be considered an oral version of our Pulp Fiction in that they combine important historical figures, familiar neighborhood characters, superheroes, fantasy, lurid sex and violence, and so forth.

At least that's what it says on the DVD box.

This film is about some kids who experienced sensational events in the Spanish Civil War and made them even more sensational by turning them into aventis.

Much of the film takes place in the 1930s, but the framing story takes place around 1970, when two corpses turn up in the city morgue and the coroner and his head nurse remember the two people from their own childhood days. Those recollections primarily take the form of long, lascivious, and colorful yarns narrated by the hard-drinking doctor.

In other words, the action seen by the audience represents a middle-aged man telling an aventi about the aventis he used to tell as a boy. The narration is rendered even more unreliable by the fact that the doctor seems to be emotionally unstable, drunk, and more than a little cuckoo. It is thus impossible to tell how much of his story is historical, how much simply represents the misunderstandings or fabrications of his youth, how much is legend or misremembered legend, and how much the doctor is ad libbing in order to shock the old nun for his own depraved amusement. To make matters worse, three of the women pictured in his recollections are played by the same actress, Victoria Abril. That casting decision leaves the audience baffled throughout most of the film. Are they supposed to be the same woman using different identities to hide from the fascists? Are they really three different women? If the latter, what is the symbolic point made by casting the same actress in all three parts? Is it to show how our memories tend to run everything together? Is it to show how the average woman and the prostitute are really similar people placed in different situations?

Frankly, I have no idea what the correct answers might be for those questions. I don't even know if those are the right questions, because this is one of the more opaque movies I've ever watched. It's possible to understand what's happening in certain scenes, but even when that happens it's not possible to know whether the action being portrayed is merely a fictional story concocted by the boys in the 1930s, or perhaps a fictional story made up in extemporaneous recollection by the coroner. Beyond that, it is virtually impossible to determine how the scenes are supposed to fit together, and even if one contemplates that at length and gets a fairly good handle on it, it is even more difficult to determine what it is all supposed to mean and why the film was made in the first place.

The film concludes in Barcelona in 1989, with two of the minor characters making a reunion in which they speculate about Marcos (a young Antonio Banderas), a legendary anarchist who supposedly hid from the authorities for years. The old comrades finally conclude that Marcos died long ago, but a final shot in the city square shows an old couple of street beggars, and they seem to be Marcos and his lover (one of the many Victoria Abrils).

Variety's reviewer hit the nail right on the head when he wrote, "Those with the patience to see this film two or three times, or read the novel by Juan Marsé upon which it is based, may understand its convoluted plot. Ordinary film goers will be hard-pressed to make any sense out of out what they see on the screen."

There's good news for you if you are one of those rare discriminating viewers willing to make the required effort. You can pick up a DVD for less than a dollar at the Amazon marketplace.


*np features








The film received seven Goya nominations, but that meant little in 1989, when the modern Spanish film industry was still in its inchoate stages. Despite the lack of competition, this film was not nominated for the Best Picture Goya, and received a generally cold response from critics and audiences, even from the more discriminating and adventurous viewers on the film festival circuit.

No major reviews online.



7.0 IMDB summary (of 10)





The sex is quite explicit, especially the first scene between Jorge Sanz and a pregnant Victoria Abril, in which they perform in a brothel for the amusement of a rich voyeur. Sanz sodomizes Abril, pisses on her, and so forth. The pregnancy was not faked with prosthetics. Abril really was six months along when the scenes were filmed. 90% of the female nudity is from Abril, but there are a few other naked women pictured briefly when the police raid a brothel.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: