Calanda-born writer-director Luis Buñuel put Spanish cinema squarely on the map during his long, storied career with such surrealist classics as Un Chien Andalou, Belle de Jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. And although the great Carlos Saura (Carmen, El Amor Brujo), Oscar-winner Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, The Sea Inside) and gritty, indie wunderkind J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) have definitely made their mark on the world stage as well, for most cinephiles, Spanish cinema is best embodied by the distinctively art house oeuvre of Oscar-winner Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Volver).
So the fact that the top grossing homegrown film in Spanish box office history would turn out to be a zany, mainstream comedy directed by a relatively obscure director (Emilio Martínez-Lázaro) who cut his teeth in the Spanish television industry would seem unlikely. But then, nothing about the runaway global success of 2014’s Spanish Affair (Ocho Apellidos Vascos) has been ordinary.
A madcap romantic comedy about Andalusian born and bred Rafa (Dani Rovira) pretending to be Basque to woo a fiercely independent young Basque woman named Amaia (Clara Lago), Affair had a Basque vs. Andalusian political subtext beneath the laughs that drove the humor – not to mention the box office both in Spain and beyond – to such giddy heights that a sequel was a forgone conclusion even before Affair cracked the $150M mark worldwide.
Last year’s aptly named Spanish Affair 2 (Ocho Apellidos Catalanes) is that sequel. And though some quipped that Affair 2 was a lazy retread of the best gags from the original, and I’m not generally a fan of sequels unless the words Star Wars or Marigold Hotel appear in the title, I’m here to tell you that Affair 2 is just as fun, goofy and wildly romantic as its predecessor and well worth watching the next time you fly.
Picking up roughly a year after the (spoiler alert!) break-up of Rafa and Amaia in the first film, Affair 2 opens with Amaia’s father, Koldo (played again by the hilarious Karra Elejalde) leaving his beloved Basque region for the first time to enlist Rafa’s help in stopping Amaia’s impending marriage to someone even worse that an Andalusian: a Catalan man named Pau (Berto Romero). And while the regional in-jokes might be a bit confusing at first blush and I’ll admit to pausing a few times to Google the background on some of the turf wars joked about onscreen, trust me, you don’t need a minor in Spanish geopolitics to enjoy this movie. All you really need to know is that a bunch of insanely funny folks are doing everything they can to stop an ill-advised wedding from taking place and that the road ahead of them will be filled with epic pratfalls and much merriment. Affair 2 isn’t very deep or even remotely realistic, but fans of big, Hollywood-style ensemble comedies peppered with killer supporting turns from a talented cast will find themselves right at home with this one.
Aside from Rovira, Lago and Elejalde, Affair 2 also features hilarious encore performances from Affair 1 cast members Carmen Machi (who, like Elejalde and Rovira, took home a coveted Goya award for her performance in the first film) Alberto López and Alfonso Sánchez and a memorable turn from All About My Mother’s Rosa Maria Sardá as Roser, And as in the original film, Spain has never looked more lovely onscreen. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be rooting for Amaia to keep shopping around for a mate until all seventeen of the autonomous regions of Spain are explored onscreen in swoony, sun-dappled HD. Hell, I say forget the suitors altogether and bring on the scenery. ¡Que viva España!
Shot in Spanish and Catalan and subtitled in English, Spanish Affair 2 is now playing on select Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, EVA Air and Air India flights worldwide.