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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Animated menus
  • 2 Filmographies - Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem

Jamon Jamon

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . M15+ . PAL


Due partly to her recent run of notable performances, but mostly her coupling with a certain big-nosed midget, Penelope Cruz’s star is currently one of the fastest rising in Hollywood. It’s little surprise, therefore, that we are now seeing the Cruz back catalogue being hurriedly released on DVD.

Made in 1992 and at the tender age of 18, Cruz’s fourth film Jamón, Jamón, (which literally translates as Ham, Ham) is a lusty farce from the dusty plains of central Spain. The film tells the tale of Silvia (Cruz), a beautiful young woman and daughter of the local whore, who has fallen in love with Jose Luis (Jordi Mollà); the son of the town’s wealthiest family and owners of the local underwear factory. When Silvia unexpectedly falls pregnant, Jose immediately proposes marriage and the pair’s happiness would be complete, if only Jose had balls enough to break the news to his overbearing mother Conchita (Stefina Sandrelli). For although Jose’s father Manual (Juan Diego) is in favour of the union, Conchita is outraged that Jose is even dating so far beneath him - and with the daughter of a scarlet woman no less! And so, with threats of disinheritance having little effect on the boy, Conchita hatches a plan to break up the happy couple; hiring the well-hung delivery driver and would-be bullfighter Raul (Javier Bardem) to woo Silvia away from her son.

Relishing the task, Raul dives headlong into his pursuit of the diminutive senorita, and is soon making his move. However, with Silvia overflowing with love for Jose, his advances are greeted with chilly rebuffs. And yet the rejection serves only to enflame Raul's desire! Meanwhile, Jose is still dithering and has yet to discuss his marital intentions with his mother. She, on the other hand, is becoming more and more distracted by her newest employee, and begins a torrid affair with Raul. So too Sylvia’s attraction towards Raul grows, as she perceives Jose’s continued cowardice as a lack of commitment. Depressed at his lack of courage, Jose returns to familiar pastures, and the bed of the local whore Carmen (Anna Galiena) – that’s right, Sylvia’s mother...

Jamón, Jamón is one strange film. At its core is the age-old tale of love across forbidden boundaries, and there are certainly moments of laugh-out-loud humour. But on the whole it plays like an over the top, sex-fuelled, melodramatic TV-soap. Many times I found myself caught between laughing and cringing at the film’s off-beat, ribald interplay; and just when I thought the character couplings couldn’t get more convoluted, the movie turned around and surprised me all over again. Talk about musical chairs!

Certainly, I’d like to think that the extremes to which the film takes its cliché Latino characters and wanton sexuality is all in the name of satire, and yet I’m still not quite sure. Whichever is the case, it certainly makes for interesting viewing; and when a spot of very nude bullfighting, a bizarre dream sequence and a fight to the death with sides of ham are all thrown into the mix, it all adds up to one of the weirdest, sexiest films I have seen in quite some time.


Presented at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Jamón, Jamón’s non-anamorphic image suffers from several notable problems; all of which stem from problematic source material. The transfer’s most notable characteristic is the constant amount of film grain that sullies the image for the film’s entire length, reducing the amount of background detail considerably. Sometimes heavy and at other times less so, it reaches distracting levels during many of the brighter exterior shots of the Spanish interior. Film artefacts are also a problem early on, with many white specks littering the image. Thankfully these quickly subside and only the odd speck is seen until towards the film’s end.

Apart from the source material, local producer Umbrella Entertainment have done quite a reasonable job with the transfer. Whilst the image is nicely sharp, the telecine process has not introduced any distracting instances of aliasing or moirè. Despite the film grain, foreground detail is acceptable, and whilst shadow detail is somewhat reduced, the blacks are deep and solid. In general the colours to be seen in Jamón, Jamón are quite muted, being predominantly browns and greys of the dusty Spanish interior, but when called upon, such as for the red dresses that Silvia’s mother is accustomed to wearing, hues are vivid yet well-balanced and skin tones are perfect throughout. In terms of compression artefacts, there are one or two slight instances of macro-blocking in some of the dimmer backgrounds, but nothing distracting; and the many instances of dust, smoke and mist are all handled without a hint of posterisation.

All in all, while the source material disappoints, Umbrella have done well under the circumstances, and whilst Jamón, Jamón isn’t going to win any awards for its transfer, it’s watchable nonetheless.


Despite sporting a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in its original Spanish, Jamón, Jamón is certainly nothing special in terms of audio. Whilst the front-dominant soundstage displays reasonable separation across the front channels, the surround channels are utilised mostly to fill out the sporadic score and to carry the odd bit of ambient sound; mostly traffic on the highway that cuts its way directly through town. Disappointingly, several of the outdoor scenes display a background hiss (that may have originally been insects but it is hard to tell), and moreover the sound drops out on at least four separate occasions. I may speculate that these were positioned on or near the reel changes, but I’ve nothing to substantiate this guess. Not surprisingly, the subwoofer has little to do; blossoming to life momentarily as the odd road train thunders through town. Despite Ms Cruz’s soft, child-like voice, the Spanish dialogue emanates clearly and distinctly from the centre channel, and at all times the subtitles are clear and easy to read. Overall, apart from the disappointing dropouts, Jamón, Jamón provides a serviceable audio presentation, but nothing to get excited about.


Nicely animated, non-anamorphic menus provide access to a small number of extras that, unfortunately, will not hold your interest for more than a minute or two.

  • Trailer: (2:21) Widescreen (1.85:1 non-anamorphic) and a reasonable transfer - but who’s going to watch it?

  • Promo: (4:49) Widescreen (1.85:1 non-anamorphic) and basically a longer form of trailer, this contains segments from all the key scenes of the film. Still of no real interest.

  • Director’s Notes: In six pages of text director Bigas Luna espouses on the subject of Spain in the 21st century and what he calls the ‘cult of the animal’; a love affair with ham, and other foods that have strong links to the sensuous side of Spanish life. These are all things he has tried to feed into the film which he sees as a portrait of the Spanish way of life.

  • Penelope Cruz Filmography: Three pages list Penelope’s films from 1991 through to 2001.

  • Javier Bardem Filmography: Three pages list Javier’s films from 1990 through to 2002.

  • Umbrella Propaganda: Trailers for four other Umbrella releases, Shallow Grave, Cyrano de Bergerac, My Beautiful Laundrette and Cinema Paradiso.


Jamón, Jamón is a sexy, at times farcical melodrama that will appeal to lovers of European cinema, fans of Penelope Cruz, or fans of Penelope Cruz’s body. However, if the sight of Latino men in skin tight jeans offends you, or you just can’t stand the sight of semi-naked Latino women in loose cotton dresses, then Jamón, Jamón is not the film for you. Certainly, if you disapprove of full-frontal (male) nudity and bare breasts in nearly every scene, then you had best steer clear of this one. For the rest of you, if you get it, you may well get a laugh out of Jamón, Jamón. If you don’t, and I’m still not sure if I did, then you’ll still be scratching your head several days later.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1816
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      And I quote...
    "...one of the weirdest, sexiest films I have seen in quite some time."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
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    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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