Mad Love | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mad Love 

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A handsome and well-acted bodice ripper, this 2001 Spanish feature by Vicente Aranda dramatizes the early adulthood and brief reign of Queen Joan of Castile (1479-1555), known to her subjects as Joan the Mad. Shipped off to Flanders for a political marriage to Philip of Burgundy, the mild and virginal Joan (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) is haunted by the impression that her parents wedded for love; promptly deflowered by Philip (Daniele Liotti), a leonine hunk with a royal sense of sexual entitlement, she defines their shaky romance in physical terms and responds to his affairs with a series of jealous rages that undermine her authority. Aranda acknowledges Joan's emotional instability but also notes the treachery of the men around her, as Flemish courtiers urge Philip to take control of Castile by having his wife declared insane. Like all great monarchical drama, the film amplifies the political implications of personal behavior, and there's enough heavy breathing to occupy the less historically inclined. In Spanish with subtitles. 117 min. Landmark's Century Centre, Renaissance Place.

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