REVIEW: 7:35 de la mañana [7:35 in the Morning] [2004]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


Rating: NR | Runtime: 8 minutes | Release Date: 2004 (Spain)
Studio: Ibarretxe & Co. S.L.
Director(s): Nacho Vigalondo
Writer(s): Nacho Vigalondo

“Always in a hurry; always at the same time”

An Oscar nominee for Best Live Action Short with his debut work, writer/director Nacho Vigalondo has gone on to make a couple features with festival appeal in the almost decade since. But there is something peculiar, unique, and a bit demented about 7:35 de la mañana [7:35 in the Morning] that makes it the film I will always associate with him. A crazy musical shown to me by a coworker two years after its release, the darkly comic subject isn’t easy to forget.

Opening with the usual early morning arrival of Marta Belenguer, we’re introduced to a packed coffee shop oddly silent and trepidatious. Two stationary men with instruments stare blankly as though waiting to be allowed to move and the owner behind the counter quietly walks back to get his regular customer’s usual drink. Confused by the tense atmosphere and attempting to brush off the discomfort of silence, she takes off her jacket and readies to relax with her newspaper when the singsong voice of Vigalondo is heard across the room. Popping out from behind a column, the film’s eccentric choreography commences.

Just as disoriented as Marta, we aren’t initially quite as frightened. While she sits scared at the intrusion and serenade we simply smirk at this man’s unbridled confidence bursting out in song without having ever spoken to his subject of love before. Nervous and uncoordinated, Nacho dances with dishes that we eventually hear crash to the floor. Stumbling around the café and knocking down chairs along the way, he’s even coerced the other customers to play his game and join in the display. A jovial act until the camera cuts sharply to the unnerved face of a waiter and the pile of cell phones resting below him, our fear increases to match the woman’s as she dials the police before things escalate out of hand.

Surreal in its declaration of love, Vigalondo has subverted a romantic gesture into the misguided deeds of a sociopath. You can recall plenty of movies or TV shows where such a grand statement not only elicits tears from the unsuspecting woman, but also results in some form of embrace opposite the cheers of those watching. But none of that occurs in this shop since everyone besides us understands the true stakes of the situation. The unknown participants betray their desire to hide the danger at play and one man’s crippling fear making him unable to read the scripted lyric clutched in his hand reveals the explosive finale about to come.

Shot in black and white with a fantastic comic sensibility marred only by the subtext beneath its fantastical desire for love, Vigalondo is a delightful ham interjecting into every frame with either a (not so) graceful leap or breathlessly pensive head bob. Including the intriguing lyric about the best things needing to both begin and end, we eventually realize his intent was never to be with the woman he desires. Only hoping to perhaps conjure a smile or save her from the solitude he’s witnessed consuming her every day, he wants her to be noticed as the gorgeous creature seen through his eyes. And with a confetti-filled finale—again subverting such an event’s celebratory nature—his unorthodox gift ‘succeeds’ as no one in that room will ever forget her.

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