Bigas Luna Collection: Golden Balls (Huevos de oro) Review

Benito Gonzalez (Javier Bardem) is ambitious. Very ambitious. He wants money, and lots of it. Women. And he wants to build a skyscraper that thrusts into the air like a giant cock. To further his ambitions he marries wealthy Marta (Maria de Medeiros) while keeping his mistress Claudia (Maribel Verdú). Unfortunately the two women in his life soon come to know each other rather well, and that’s the start of Benito’s downfall.

Golden Balls is not a subtle film. Benito says he has two balls, so he should have two of everything else: Rolex watches, women. At one point he even speculates mid-coitus what life would be like with two dicks. Benito’s machismo is so extreme that you’re in no doubt that it’s being sent up – it’s something of a tribute that we feel anything other than contempt for him at the end, when his comeuppance has well and truly upped and come. He’s a pitiable figure in many ways. The four women in his life are far stronger characters, who in more ways than one can get along quite well enough without him. Two of them even become lovers.

Meanwhile, Bigas Luna doesn’t miss an opportunity for gratuitous phallic symbolism. As with Jamón Jamón, he also throws in a dream sequence clearly inspired by Luis Buñuel. (Those ants are a giveaway.) In the light of this, it’s odd that Luna uses Benito’s liking for Salvador Dali paintings – not to mention his Julio Iglesias karaoke machine – as an indicator of his antihero’s crassness and poor taste. Considering that Luna has drawn upon Buñuel’s work before and that those ants derive from Un chien andalou, a film which Buñuel and Dali co-directed, I’m not sure what Luna is trying to say here…that Buñuel is a true surrealist and Dali a producer of surreal-lite kitsch? It’s hard to say. I’m with him on Julio Iglesias though.

Luna tells his story with his usual economy, coming in under an hour and a half. Given that this is a film about someone who thinks his is bigger than anyone else’s, Luna uses Scope instead of the 1.66:1 of the two earlier films in this set, and José Luis Alcaine’s camerawork is top-notch. There’s also no doubt that Javier Bardem commands the screen, though how much you like this film will depend on how long you last out without wanting to throw things at the central character.

Golden Balls has been released previously by Tartan, but for inclusion in this Bigas Luna Collection box set it has been remastered. Affiliate links to the left refer to the Collection: the film is still available separately. The disc is encoded for Region 2 only.

Shot in Scope, Golden Balls is transferred to DVD in the ratio of 2.40:1, anamorphically enhanced. The transfer is colourful if maybe a little too soft, with good blacks. It’s certainly acceptable, though I suspect larger displays than mine may be less kind to it.

Alone of the four films in the box set, Golden Balls has a choice of three soundtracks. Like the other three, there’s a 2.0 (analogue Dolby Surround) option, plus 5.1 mixes in Dolby Digital and DTS. This isn’t the most sonically adventurous film, though the opening shot of a cement mixer will certainly help demonstrate left and right. There isn’t a lot in it, but the DTS track is the best, with the dialogue better balanced with the music and effects. For Spanish speakers, you can turn the English subtitles off.

The extras begin with an interview with Bigas Luna (6:10), which is shot in the same pretentious manner as the one on the Tit and the Moon DVD – in often blurry slow motion, with Luna’s words never in synch. In a short time he does say some interesting things about the film – that you are meant to despise Benito up until the point where you pity him. He also discusses the story structure, which is inspired by a statue with four surrounds: in this case, Benito and the four women he is involved with. The remaining extra is the theatrical trailer, which is in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 and runs 1:11.

7 out of 10
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