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Cinema Signal:

Contemporary Spanish Cinema

. "Don't Tempt Me" (aka, "Sin Noticias de Dios," "No News From God," "Without God's Notice," Bendito Infierno")

This film from Spain doesn't intend to be a mystery but it sure doesn't resolve the question of why the investors (of whom there were so many that the title credits themselves are a laugh) didn't require a re-write. The other mystery is what the film is trying to be or to say.

Here you have two women who are calling themselves agents from Heaven and Hell and, at other times referring to themselves as angels from those planes. What's more, they argue about the existence and the absent nature of God. (Its Spanish title might explain why this argument is force fed into a scene of its own). Well, angels they might well be but they might have been better off fluttering their wings in a more defined space.

All right, it was fun to see Penelope Cruz in a comic role that shows her spunky self-confidence, qualities that have been somewhat submerged in big budget outings. But that's as far as I can stretch the positive side of this uninspired mess that tries to give us a picture of heavenly and demonic activities. In this strange vision, the two entities are vying for the soul of boxer Manny (Demian Bichir). Apparently, which path he takes before checking out is going to change the balance of the biblical universe.

Carmen (Penelope Cruz) is a waitress in the hellish underworld, subject to rape and violence by the pumped up residents. She gains respite from this destiny when she's chosen by the english speaking Brits who run the place to be an agent. She is tasked with the assignment to return to the mortal world in order to influence Manny, a boxer with a medical problem, to respond to his dark side. If successful, she'll achieve the 7th circle and return as a full grown male earthling. In the meanwhile, she dons the earth role of manager of a supermarket run by some gangster types. Don't ask.

Meanwhile, a highly politicized heaven sends out its emissary in the form of Lola (Victoria Abril) to work on Manny for the opposite outcome. It's really important because heaven is losing its funding and may go bankrupt, you see. On the ethereal plane Lola is an acclaimed nightclub singer and Marina D'Angelo (Fanny Ardant) is the French speaking boss who seems to be the one always crying the blues. She shares authority with slick-suited Davenport (Gael Garcia Bernal) who puts a male balance on the gender makeup of the operatives but whose exact contribution seems pasted in from some other picture.

The great Javier Bardem makes a sneak (uncredited) appearance as Tony Graco while his mother Pilar appears in a photo.

Look, I know what a metaphor is. But that figure of speech is intended to clarify through comparison. This obviously metaphorical movie is a jumble of incoherence. On its home turf writer-director Agustin Diaz Yanes' fantasy may be understood as a satire on local political issues and attitudes. His film for the home market was produced in 2001. My guess is that Penelope Cruz' brightening star is the key factor to explain its resurrection for the rest of the planet two years later. But, the mystery of how and why it got made in the first place remains inexplicable.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Penelope Cruz and Victoria Abril
Angels both

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