DVDs & Blu-rays: Penumbra and an Etta James Live at Montreux, 1993 Giveaway

Penumbra stars Cristina Brondo and Berta Muñiz; Adrián García Bogliano and Ramiro García Bogliano co-direct.

Filmmaker Adrián García Bogliano didn't set out to make a cut-and-paste horror film when he started Penumbra. It wasn't enough to take the successful elements of American, Japanese and Italian horror film traditions, mix them up and hope for the best. García and his brother, co-director Ramiro García Bogliano, wanted to make an Argentinian horror film, specific to their culture and traditions. More than that, they wanted to take the political crisis in the country and put it on screen in an unexpected way, as a scare flick. So in Penumbra there's a pretty young woman as the lead/victim, but the García brothers made her an extremely unlikable Spaniard visiting Buenos Aires who looks down on the Argentinian people. Condescending toward everyone she meets, she insults people by throwing out one-liners about the ineffective and inept Argentinian government, or the country's notoriously weak economy. (We don't remember hearing about the American recession in many of our horror flicks.)

García says the references reflect the complicated relationship between Argentina and Spain. "I was born in Spain but lived most of my life in Argentina; my brother was born in Argentina but lived most of his life in Spain. So we have a lot of love for both countries," García tells us. "But at the same time, I always felt the people from Spain were condescending with Argentinians. There's always an attitude, a belief that Argentina is a third-world country and we don't know how to do anything. That's always annoyed me. In the 1990s we had a difficult time with a very corrupt government and I feel like the Spaniards took advantage of that situation. They bought a lot of companies for nothing. That led to a huge economic crisis for us in 2001. That was the seed to write the script."

And it's more than just recent history that García was referencing. "I feel that attitude has been true for the last 500 years, from when they came on a boat and "discovered" Latin America. I didn't want that relationship between the two countries to be the main focus, but I did want it to be an important part of the film."

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The main focus of the film, García says, was to tell a scary story about everyday people and the horrible things they do to each other. There are no monsters in Penumbra, at least not any mutant creatures or extraterrestrials, but there are monstrous people. Cristina Brondo plays Marga, who's in Buenos Aires to rent out an apartment she owns. She meets a man who she assumes is the real estate agent and takes him up to the apartment. One by one, the man's associates (who Marga assumes to be more real estate agents) arrive. But they aren't there to look at the apartment, they're there to conduct a bloody -- and deadly -- ritual.

The DVD release has only one extra, the film's trailer. Penumbra is in Spanish, with English subtitles available.

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You'll see Etta James, from her first European appearance (with a stylish big 'fro) to her 1993 concert at Montreux Jazz Festival, in the new DVD Etta James Live at Montreux, 1993. Visually, it's a slightly uneven release (the early footage hasn't been restored), but James's performances shine through. The earliest set is from 1975 and includes "Drown in My Own Tears," "I'd Rather Go Blind" and a funky "Respect Yourself." The 1977 set includes a medley of "At Last" (the only version of her signature tune on the disc), "Trust in Me" and "A Sunday Kind of Love." One of the disc's highlights is a 1978 performance of "Take It to the Limit," with James injecting the tune with an extra sense of melancholy. A couple of other segments include "Tell Mama" and "Sugar on the Floor." It's the 1993 performance that's the focus of the disc, with "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You," among others.

We wish there was a full performance of "At Last." But even in its abbreviated version, it's easy to see that James's version is untouchable. When she launches into that opening phrase, "At last/My love has come along," it's as if the world stops spinning.

We've got a DVD copy of Etta James Live at Montreux, 1993 up for grabs. Send an e-mail with the phrase "Etta James Live at Montreux, 1993" in the subject line to olivia.alvarez@houstonpress.com to enter. We'll pick a winner randomly on Friday. Please note, you must live in the United States to enter.



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