Bigas Luna Collection: Jamón Jamón Review

José Luis (Jordi Molla) is seeing Silvia (Penélope Cruz), the sixteen-year-old daughter of the town prostitute (Anna Galiena). Then she tells him she’s pregnant and they decide to marry. His mother Conchita (Stefania Sandrelli), manager of an underwear factory, is certainly not pleased and is determined to break the marriage up at all costs. So she hires Raul (Javier Bardem), a young would-be bullfighter working at the ham factory whose “package” she has personally selected to advertise her latest range in men’s underwear, to seduce Silvia…

Jamón is the Spanish for “ham” but this film’s title doesn’t really have the same ring to it translated into English. (It’s explained by a bed scene where she asks him what her breasts taste like. He says “like ham…like ham…”, hence the title. The film is sometimes known in English as Salami Salami.) Although Bigas Luna had been making films since the late 1970s, this was the first to receive a UK cinema release (the very different Anguish had been released on video) and it made Luna’s reputation internationally. He became bracketed with his compatriot Pedro Almódovar as part of a new wave of Spanish filmmaking, partly due to a taste for melodrama, passions running as hot as the Spanish sun and often featuring strong women characters…though with a sensibility more obviously heterosexual than his. However, the resemblance is a little misleading, especially as other Luna films which do not fit this distinction remain undistributed in the UK. Anguish, for example, is a horror film that gave the genre a postmodern twist long before Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did. (I haven’t seen Luna’s other horror film, Rebirth, which starred Dennis Hopper.) A greater influence would seem to be Luis Buñuel – both this and Golden Balls feature dream sequences clearly influenced by him.

Javier Bardem has since become a superb actor, though Jamón Jamón is not really much of a vehicle for him. His role is not much more than the sexy hunk, which he fills easily enough, even to the extent of featuring a nude bullfighting sequence. Penélope Cruz was really sixteen when she made this film, and she puts in an eyecatchingly sultry performance. There is also strong work from the other lead actors. The story is pleasantly convoluted, leading to a duel to the death with sides of ham, but there isn’t a lot to it. It’s entertaining, but doesn’t last long in the memory.

Jamón Jamón has previously been released by Tartan and remains available as a separate release. However, it has now been re-released as part of the four-film Bigas Luna boxset, along with The Ages of Lulú, Golden Balls and The Tit and the Moon. The DVD is encoded for Region 2 only.

The film is transferred to DVD in its original ratio of 1.66:1 and has been anamorphically enhanced. The DVD has been remastered for this boxset release. Given what would seem a larger budget, Luna and his DP José Luis Alcaine go for bright, bold colours, especially reds. All this is faithfully rendered in the DVD transfer, though there are some scratches and spots to be seen.

The original soundtrack was Dolby SR, which appears to have been ported over as a Dolby 2.0 (Analogue Dolby Surround) track on this DVD. If you play this through an amp set up for PCM (ProLogic) then you do hear a good few directional sounds as well as the music and dialogue.

The only extra is the trailer, which is non-anamorphic 1.66:1 and runs 2:23.

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