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(1997/1999) (Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz) (R)

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Suspense/Thriller (Subtitled): Committed for a murder he doesn't recall, a once handsome but now disfigured man tries to remember the past events that -- real or imagined -- led him to that horrific act.
César (EDUARDO NORIEGA) is a handsome and wealthy twenty-five-year-old who has a certain way with women, and is always winning them over with his good looks and charm. While this often irritates his best friend, Pelayo (FELE MARTÍNEZ), who realizes he can't compete with his friend's handsome nature, he's not at all surprised when César puts the moves on Sofia (PENÉLOPE CRUZ), an attractive woman who happens to be his date for César's birthday party.

Of course, César, not wanting to seem the total cad, uses Sofia to help him ward off Nuria (NAJWA NIMRI), the recipient of his latest one-night stand whose refusal to accept his rejection soon begins to border on obsession. Nonetheless, César and Sofia hit it off and he finds himself falling in love with her.

Running into Nuria the next day, César reluctantly accepts a ride with her that turns into a huge mistake when she drives her car off the road, killing herself and permanently mangling César's once handsome face.

Awakening in a psychiatric prison for a murder he doesn't remember committing and prompted to wear an expressionless mask to hide his scarred face, César -- with the help of Antonio (CHETE LERA), a sympathetic psychiatrist -- tries to figure out what happened and why he keeps seeing images of a man (GERARD BARRAY) on TV touting the benefits of cryogenics.

As he does so, César's life begins to unravel as reality and fantasy begin to blend together in a nightmarish fashion that may just drive him mad if he can't remember his past that may or may not have ever happened.

Most won't, but older teens may get a kick out of this twisting, paranoid thriller.
For some strong sexuality, language and some violence.
  • EDUARDO NORIEGA plays a handsome and carefree twenty-five-year-old man who's successful with women, but never sees the same one twice. After essentially stealing his friend's date, he's involved in a car crash that disfigures his face, and ends up in a psychiatric prison for committing a murder he doesn't remember. As he tries to recall his past, we see him have sex with women, kill several people, and use strong profanity while progressively becoming more paranoid.
  • FELE MARTINEZ plays his best friend who drowns his romantic sorrows in booze in one scene.
  • PENÉLOPE CRUZ plays the object of César's affection, an aspiring actress and street performer.
  • NAJWA NIMRI plays a woman obsessed with César after he rejects her following their one-night stand.
  • CHETE LERA plays the psychiatrist who tries to help César.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    It's not unusual for people to have dreams or nightmares that are so vividly realistic that upon waking, one often has to take several minutes to come to the realization that what they dreamt was not real. However, the intensity of such nocturnal activity, that's usually confusing, bewildering and occasionally suspenseful, would considerably be increased if one could no longer differentiate their waking and dreaming worlds.

    That's just part of the premise of the Spanish made "Open Your Eyes," a haunting, mesmerizing and mind-blowing experience that will likely confuse moviegoers -- in a good way -- as much as the main character finds himself in that same predicament. Although it was originally released in Spain in 1997, it's just now getting a stateside release. Nonetheless, it's easily one of the most memorable and well-made films to hit theaters this year.

    Reminiscent of reality bending movies such as "Total Recall," The Game," "Jacob's Ladder" and the recently released "The Matrix" and "eXistenZ," but far superior in many aspects -- notwithstanding the special effects of its bigger budgeted Hollywood brethren -- the film begins, after a short, but effectively creepy dream, with what appears will be an appealing romantic drama. That's simply an expository subterfuge, however, to lull the moviegoer into a false sense of security about what's to come.

    Soon the plot begins to jump back and forth through time and one begins to realize that the visualized dreams may or may not be reality. To say anything more about the details would ruin the "fun" to be experienced while watching the movie. Suffice it say, about an hour into the film, everything goes haywire and for those trying to keep track of what's happening -- or REALLY happening -- they'll need a big scorecard to follow the many twists and turns that follow.

    Unlike "eXistenZ" that has a similar, all encompassing and revealing ending, this film isn't intentionally made to appear sloppy, nor is it as boring as that blood and gore fest. Instead, "Open Your Eyes" is nothing short of riveting and is probably one of the spookiest films to hit the screen in years, although not in your typical haunted house fashion.

    From the creepy score by Mariano Marín (and writer/director Alejandro Amenábar), that's occasionally quite similar to that heard on TV's "The X-Files," to the overall way in which the plot develops, the film simply gets under your skin and will stick with you long after you see it.

    Now, it's always possible that some may complain about the film continually and intentionally misleading or toying with the audience regarding what's real or not. If so, they'll be missing the point, all of which stems around the fun of misdirection.

    Something akin to going through a house of mirrors where reality is bent and nothing is ever as it seems, the proceedings might frustrate some, although most will probably get a kick out of the picture even if they do have a devil of a time trying to figure out what's transpired or will happen. Even your trusty critic -- the viewer of most every plot twist and turn known to Hollywood -- guessed wrong about the film's ending, although it was a pretty good and close guess if I do say so myself.

    Of course, that's writer/director Alejandro Amenábar's goal, and he (along with cowriter Mateo Gil) successfully deliver the goods, while also touching on subjects such as vanity and whether superficial beauty is "real" beauty or not (the symbolic theme of what's real and what isn't runs throughout the film).

    Having already made a splash with his 1995 debut feature, "Tesis" (that won seven Goya awards -- the Spanish equivalent of the Oscar), Amenábar precisely helms this picture in such an unconventional but audience pleasing manner that it shouldn't surprise anyone when Hollywood comes calling for him (and/or this picture for a remake).

    The performances are just as good with Eduardo Noriega ("Tesis") delivering a compelling and moving take as a man confronted with multilayered problems. From the handsome, devil-may- care playboy to the disfigured and increasingly paranoid man, Noriega perfectly plays the role (even from behind a mask), often reminding one of a more panicked version of John Hurt in "The Elephant Man."

    Equally as good is the ravishing Penélope Cruz ("Belle Epoque," "Live Flesh") as his love interest. Part of what makes their performances so great is the chemistry between the two that never feels forced or fabricated. As such, Cruz creates a lovable and sympathetic character who, after understandably having problems with César's "new look," manages to see beyond that.

    Supporting performances are also strong, ranging from Fele Martínez's believable take as César's initially less handsome friend who gets something of a comeuppance, Chete Lera as the sympathetic psychiatrist with an interesting development at the story's finale, and Najwa Nimri who gives Glenn Close a run for her money in the "don't jilt me or else" department.

    While the film's chance of reaching a wide and mainstream audience will be hurt in the states due to it being a subtitled Spanish film and probably only playing in the "art house" circuit, audiences who crave original and unconventional films should seek out this one.

    Sure to mark the second step in the continued cinematic ascension of a director who may just become the next big thing, the film crosses and blends many genres, but is equally compelling, haunting and nothing short of a blast to watch. We give "Open Your Eyes" an 8 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated film where things aren't always as "real" as they may initially seem. That said, profanity is extreme with at least 25 "f" words (in English subtitles) being uttered along with other "lesser" profanities and colorful phrases.

    Several sexual encounters occur, some displaying nudity, mainly suggested movement and some related sounds. Other sexually related talk also occurs during the film. Violence is extreme with several lethal acts including a person repeatedly being shot, another being smothered, a car crash that may have killed one person and severely injured another and two suicides that may or may not be real.

    Some drinking occurs with two characters being drunk in separate scenes, and some smoking also occurs. The film may also be rather spooky and/or suspenseful to some viewers due to its odd, nightmarish like properties.

    Although it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film, we suggest that you take a closer look at the content should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home.

    For those concerned with repetitive, bright flashing lights, a repeated strobe effect in a club occurs in one scene.

  • People have drinks at César's birthday party, and Pelayo is somewhat drunk.
  • While driving, Nuria offers some pills to César. He declines, so she downs several of them.
  • People have drinks in a bar/club, including Pelayo and Sofia who drink rum and cokes. César then asks the bartender for a whiskey and coke and quickly downs that glass. He then repeats that, but alternates it with drinking many shots of straight liquor with another man. He gets sick from that and later appears drunk.
  • People have drinks in a bar.
  • We see César's horribly scarred and disfigured face in many scenes (from a bad car accident).
  • We hear César vomiting in a toilet.
  • Blood runs from Nuria's nose after César has struck her, and we then see some blood also on her arm from where it's rubbed against her nose.
  • We see what looks like blood next to a guard that César has hit.
  • We then see some blood squirting out from a gunshot wound and then briefly see more blood around a victim after he's shot several more times.
  • César essentially steals Sofia -- Pelayo's date -- from him, and he's also known for being a one- night only womanizer (and he now rejects Nuria's affection and romantic/sexual advances). Some viewers may also not like it when he answers in the negative to Antonio's question about whether he believes in God or not.
  • Sofia doesn't go to see César after the accident, and appears quite uncomfortable around him later (due to the way he looks) although she eventually accepts him.
  • Some guys laugh at César when one of them tells him to "fix your face" as they pass by in a restroom.
  • César breaks into Sofia's house looking for proof of who she is.
  • César drives through the city only to find it utterly void of people.
  • Nuria purposefully speeds up and drives herself and César -- who's in the passenger's seat -- off the road, through a guardrail and down a hill where her car crashes into a wall.
  • From that point on, many scenes and sequences throughout the movie (some listed under "Violence") have a progressively creepy feel about them as César's real and possibly imagined worlds collide and begin to drive him mad (such as a scene where César states that he wants everyone to be quiet in a bar and then suddenly -- and accompanied by creepy music -- everyone shuts up and simply stares at him).
  • Prompted that what he's about to do isn't real, a man jumps from a high rise and falls to the sidewalk below (with a realistic point of view shot of the quickly approaching sidewalk).
  • Pillow: Used by one person to smother another.
  • Handguns: Used by a character to shoot and kill a bystander and by some guards to shoot at him.
  • Phrases (in English subtitles): "For f*ck's sake," "F*ck-up," "Screw" (sexual) "Bitch," "Pisses me off," "Piss," "Bastard," "Pain in the ass," "Shut up," and "Idiot."
  • We learn that a character committed suicide via an overdose, and then see another incident where a character leaps from a building after being told that what he thinks will happen isn't real.
  • None.
  • An extreme amount of spooky, suspenseful and otherwise ominous music plays throughout the movie.
  • None.
  • (All in Spanish with English subtitles): At least 25 "f" words (1 used sexually), 18 "s" words, 5 asses (2 used with "hole"), 3 S.O.B.'s, 3 hells, and 5 uses of "God," 2 of "My God" and 1 use of "By God" as exclamations.
  • We hear César telling Antonio that he likes to eat and "make love" like everybody else.
  • We see Nuria in César's bed after their one-night stand. Later, Pelayo asks "Did you screw her?" and then comments that she must be great in bed, causing César to state that "she's not bad."
  • Nuria spins around (clothed) showing herself to César, stating that she's his gift and asking "Why don't you open it?" He responds, "I already know what's inside." She then starts kissing him and we hear her unzip his pants, but he then moves away from her.
  • Nuria tells César, "From your face, I'd say you didn't sleep with her (Sofia). You didn't sleep with her but you don't mind." She then says that she "scored" at the party as well, but that the guy wasn't up to doing it and then adds, "So I'm still hot for it" as she tries to entice him into her car. Moments later she says that what bothers her about César is that all he knows about her is "that I'm a good f*ck."
  • We see César's pleasured reaction, hear some sounds and see suggested movement as Sofia has sex on top of him (with many seconds of seeing her bare breasts).
  • We see César and Sofia under the sheets with him running his hand along her bare hip.
  • We see Sofia in her bra and underwear and then see Nuria in the same (saying "I'm the girl you just made love to").
  • We see César and Sofia having sex with movement and she then rolls on top of him (we see just the top of her bare butt) and then sits on his lap having sex (with movement). Suddenly Sofia turns into another woman, but he keeps having sex with her (with movement and sounds, but our views mainly consist of head and shoulder shots of each person). Upset at this transformation, César smothers her with a pillow, and after he's done, we see her bare breasts.
  • César smokes a few times as does Antonio, Nuria smokes once, while several other characters smoke in various scenes.
  • César mentions that his parents are dead (having died 15 years ago).
  • What dreams really mean, and the fun sci-fi concept of whether what one experiences is reality or perhaps just a dream.
  • Accepting those whose appearance is different than normal (from birth or a later accident).
  • People who've gone "mad" and what drove them to that state.
  • Cryogenics -- the freezing of people to resurrect them later -- a point that's occasionally brought up in the film.
  • Nuria purposefully speeds up and drives herself and César -- who's in the passenger's seat -- off the road, through a guardrail and down a hill where her car crashes into a wall.
  • César smacks Nuria and then ties her hands to a bed, thinking she's done something to Sofia.
  • Thinking he's the victim of a conspiracy, César drives Pelayo back against a wall and then throws him to the ground.
  • César violently knocks over belongings in Sofia's home and she then hits him over the back of his head thinking he's a burglar.
  • César smothers a person with whom he's having sex, by covering her head with a pillow.
  • César kicks a mirror several times, shattering it.
  • César struggles and wrestles with another patient over a TV remote control.
  • We see César struggling with a guard to escape. He then strikes another guard who tries to stop him, takes his gun and then accidently shoots another man outside. Thinking he's dreaming, César then repeatedly shoots this man until he's dead (with bloody results). Other guards then come out and they and César have a standoff with their guns drawn. As they shoot at him, another man steps in the way and believes that he's been shot in the back.
  • We learn that a man killed himself via an overdose.
  • Prompted that what he's about to do isn't real, a man jumps from a high rise and falls to the sidewalk below.

  • Reviewed April 27, 1999 / Posted April 30, 1999

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