Jamón, jamón (1989) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Jamón Jamón, translated Ham Ham, is a Spanish sex farce that gives new meaning to the phrases "bad taste" and "over the top". In short, I loved it.


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The story centers around Penélope Cruz in her first nude role. She is daughter of the woman (Anna Galiena) who runs the local cathouse/cantina, works in the men's underwear factory owned by the richest family in town, and is pregnant by the son of the factory owners. He promises to marry her, but his domineering mother, Stefania Sandrelli, will do anything to prevent the marriage. She hires underwear model/ham factory worker/wanna-be bullfighter Javier Bardem to seduce Cruz. Things are not nearly that simple however. Seems Cruz' fiance has been using her mother's services for years, as had his father before him, and Sandrelli falls for Bardem. All this wackiness, and we haven't even mentioned nude midnight bullfighting with full frontal male nudity, or running to Cruz' house naked when they are caught.
I have to love any film that shows breasts several times from a very young Penélope Cruz, breasts from Anna Galiena, and bush from Stefania Sandrelli, is full of sex and outlandish humor.  
Scoop's notes in yellow:

I don't like this film as much as Tuna does. In fact, without the nudity, I don't know if I would like it at all.

If Salvador Dali came back to life as a 1992 filmmaker, he would make a movie pretty similar to this - surreal, grotesque, farcical, and yet infuriatingly melodramatic, with a heaping helping of social commentary. Imagine a film with the comic inspiration to have two men fight a duel by battering each other with giant smoked hams. Then imagine that one of them actually dies a brutal and ugly death from the beating he receives in this duel. That will give you an idea of the way the tone can shift in this deliberately unconventional movie.

It is too simple to call it a comedy or a farce. It's a comedy only in the sense that Fargo is a comedy. And yet it is not really a melodrama or a black comedy, either. I think it is most comparable to some of the works of the Theater of the Absurd, like the plays of Ionesco, for example.

It isn't my cup of tea because the characters are abstract devices, aloof from emotional identification, but I can see why some people enjoy this as an alternative to the pablum served by Hollywood. It is many things, but it is never safe, and I guess we need risk-takers like director Bigas Luna

You may find it interesting to see international stars Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem when they were just aspiring young Spanish novices.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: just less than three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 2/4

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it was a moderate hit in Spain, with 673,000 admissions - think of that as equivalent to a $40 million picture in the USA. It also did a million in the USA in 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, Tuna admires it, and says "if the genre is foreign sex farce, this one is a B- ". Scoop disagrees "I estimate it is a run-of-the-mill C as a typical example of theater of the absurd. As a comedy/drama which focuses on the roles assigned by social classes, and features plenty of surrealist touches, I'd compare it to Ionesco's The Bald Soprano - a brilliantly cerebral concept filled with absurdist humor, but annoyingly distant, never allowing emotional identification with the characters, who are essentially devices rather than people. If you don't like absurdist work, avoid it. If you do like it, this one is good, but not great, and the DVD is dark and blurry."

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