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Rated R · 117 minutes · 2012
Tesis (1995), the first feature of Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar, was an adroit and imaginative slasher movie set at a film school. This more ambitious if less satisfying second feature, one of the top grossers in Spain in 1999, shows he still has an uncanny flair for producing dread. A wealthy young man finds himself in a psychiatric prison for committing a murder he can't clearly remember, and flashbacks take us into his dark recent past, in which he snubs an old girlfriend in order to pursue another, is disfigured in a suicidal car accident staged by the old girlfriend, and discovers that the new girlfriend has changed into the old one. The experience of going mad, conveyed so vividly by pulp writer Cornell Woolrich, is the main bill of fare, and as with Woolrich, it works better than the denouement explaining what brought it about. Even if the script (written by the director and Mateo Gil) and direction are patchy, the obsessive theme is gripping—much more so than in Vanilla Sky (2001), the Tom Cruise remake. In Spanish with subtitles.

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