Golden Balls

Bigas Luna's film is a satire on having cajones, and he doesn't shy away from providing a moral – reducing the glory-hunting, gold-digging, sex-mad Javier Bardem to floods of tears at the end. Benito is an energetic prick of a young man, hungry for money and a good time. He's possessive about women as well, and when his girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend, he becomes violent. It's not clear whether the drive to build the tallest tower in town is a direct consequence of this episode, or the gradual development of his obsessions, but in any case the project is all about erecting a phallic temple to his own potency. Luna is big on obv symbols (Benito name-checks Dali while drawing drawers on the bodies of his lovers) and the film sets up a contrast between two gendered visual metaphors: churning, insect-ridden cement and water. We start with a shot of the former and end with Bardem ripping out the plumbing in his bathroom and sobbing as the credits roll.

If there is a qualifying note to his inevitable comeuppance, it's in Bardem's suggestion that sex is fantasy. Perhaps his actions are best explained as the result of the fevered desires that a materialist and patriarchal society have stirred up within him. I cling to this reading also because it explains the tolerance Benito's women display when confronted with his abuses. Driven, dangerous swinging dicks are the stuff of feminine sexual desire, and the women in this film are also undone by it.

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