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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( 75:36)
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Short film; The Man You Know
  • Production notes
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Interviews

La Spagnola

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 87 mins . M15+ . PAL


Don't be fooled into thinking La Spagnola (pronounced 'la span-yola' and meaning 'the Spanish woman') is some boring arty-farty foreign film, for it is definitely a good Australian film. The writing and production crews are Australian; the movie was funded by the South Australian Film Corporation, it was filmed in New South Wales, and has a uniquely Australian, subtle and dark sense of humour.

Set in a dusty Australian country town in 1960, Lola (Lola Marceli) is La Spagnola and she is not a happy lady by any means. We first see her throwing herself in front of her husband's bomb of a car in an attempt to stop him from leaving. Ricardo (Steve Palomares) has a new love interest, an Australian woman, Wendy (Helen Thomson), and he has decided that she is the better option.

Unfortunately he has taken Lola's savings with him (and buys a flash new car), and without cash, or the prospect of getting any, life for Lola and her daughter, Lucia (Alice Ansara), can only become more dysfunctional. Lucia blames her mother for Ricardo leaving and simply won't forgive her. Sadly, Lucia gets caught up in her mother's emotional roller coaster ride and can't see that Lola still loves Ricardo, and it is his betrayal of that love that is the cause of Lola’s anger and frustration. Lucia believes her father left as a result of Lola's mood swings and irrationality, unaware that there are deeper issues and more complicated reasons for her mother’s behaviour.

La Spagnola is the story of Lola's attempts to deal with the hurt, loss and desire for revenge, complicated by the lack of support from her daughter, Lucia. As their relationship becomes increasingly strained, so does Lola's ability to cope with the bitterness and hatred that is building inside her.

"Love doesn't feed you."

Lola's story is typical of many migrant women back in the 1960s whose husbands had left, leaving them extremely vulnerable. Reliance on a husband spelled disaster when that support was wrenched away. Often the cultural barriers were as difficult to overcome as the emotional turmoil. Language barriers, mistrust of Australians, illiteracy, and financial dependence on their husbands often left women like Lola in a no-win situation. Relying on family and friends became essential, as did resorting to some of the same survival tactics as Lola.

Described as a dark comedy, La Spagnola is more about the relationships between people in tough situations. There are some rather humorous scenes, and while it is tempting to laugh, the underlying issues are quite sad and disturbing. If you want a good laugh, then look elsewhere. If you're keen on seeing a film that addresses the dark side of human emotions and relationships, then La Spagnola is a good choice. Be aware though, that the dialogue is a mix of English, Italian and Spanish and is mostly subtitled.


La Spagnola is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. This is a very good transfer indeed with everything set just about right. The image is sharp and clear with very good detail. Colours are slightly oversaturated, bold and vibrant, and play quite an important role in the movie, from the vivid blue sky to the stark, bright lights of the nearby refinery.

Shadow detail is very good, as are black levels, and there is no evidence of noise. There are no film artefacts, nor film to video artefacts such as aliasing - a very pleasant change.

The layer change occurs at 75:36 and is well placed in a fadeout between scenes and is almost undetectable.


Sadly, the audio transfer is only Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and while quite nice, the film would unquestionably benefit from a full Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Therefore we can pass over the centre and surround speakers plus the subwoofer, as they are not used. The stereo mix is nicely balanced with good clarity and separation. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and low-level sounds are quite rich. The music is a feature, using a mix of Latin and Spanish influenced songs (the main menu guitar piece is a knockout).

Audio-sync is fine, but as much of the film is subtitled, and my understanding of both Spanish and Italian is almost non-existent, I can't vouch for their accuracy. I had no trouble following the story, and there are many visual clues that help us get to know the characters. It is only after you watch a subtitled film that you realise how much of the story is conveyed visually.


La Spagnola certainly boasts a large and varied gallery of extras, though no one would find all of them interesting, such is the variety.

The Main Menu is accompanied by a killer guitar number, but the sub-menus are silent.

An Audio Commentary is provided by director Steve Jacobs and is his insight into the film, dissecting such things as editing choices, performances, camera angles, lighting etc. This will be of interest to budding filmmakers.

The 'Production' sub-menu contains Behind The Scenes filmed by the SBS Movie Show. At almost 19 minutes, it is not narrated and we witness the rehearsal and re-filming of several scenes. Deleted Scene is just that, and is widescreen, though it has not been cleaned up for final inclusion and is of noticeably poorer quality. Production Notes is 16 pages of silent text (keep your reading glasses handy, folks).

More hard to read text is included in the Cast and Crew sub menu, which includes biographies of seven of the main cast and crew. This is also unaccompanied by audio, unfortunately.

Under the 'Promotion' sub menu you will find a Theatrical Trailer which has the same specifications as the movie. It is not of the same quality though, and watching this in isolation might sway you from watching the film, which is of superior quality. This sub menu includes interviews from five cast and crew, courtesy of the SBS Movie Show. The actors are seen answering questions that we don’t actually hear, and they vary in length. There is no time encoded for these interviews, but some are quite lengthy and in depth, and there are a few instances of slight audio dropout. IF Awards is a snippet from the Independent Film Awards where La Spagnola was an award winner.

One of the highlights of the extras is the inclusion of Steve Jacobs’ 1984 short film, The Man You Know. At 33:29 in length, it is a very amusing political satire, and while slow to start, ends up being very biting indeed. It is a full frame, mono presentation, and is of quite poor quality. It suffers from severe grain and artefacts, but if you can ignore these it is quite rewarding.

Lastly there is some Madman Propaganda which includes trailers for several other Madman releases. They vary in length and quality, and are a mix of 1.85:1 and full frame. It’s a little like the old VHS days, only you don’t have to fast forward past them, thankfully.


As mentioned, the exhaustive list of extras range from the rewarding to the boring, depending on what you look for in the way of additional features. Given that La Spagnola is a good film, the numerous extras are a bonus. The film itself is challenging, disturbing, and darkly comical, but strip away the surface humour and you’ll see that few, if any, of the characters have much to laugh about. This is a film about human resolve, desire, and revenge... a lethal mix in anyone’s language.

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      And I quote...
    "Another good Australian film that deserves to be seen, except maybe the bit with the zucchini..."
    - Terry Kemp
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