“Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare,” wrote William Shakespeare, a point drawn forcefully home if you’re locked inside a small bathroom with a naked, sexagenarian newspaper columnist whose wintery junk is bared for a 12-hour span. Miguel (José Sacristán), the celebrated journalist of director David Trueba’s Madrid, 1987, agrees to an interview by Ángela (María Valverde), a beautiful young student, but is only interested, as he repeatedly and earthily attests, in sleeping with her. At the borrowed studio of a painter friend, he manipulates her into disrobing before the pair becomes accidentally locked in the bathroom for a long sequence of soliloquies and sexual overtures. He’s a tangle of articulate, stentorian cynicism for whom everything new is in stark contrast to a supposedly better past that his actual history suggests is bullshit. He knows he has become a writer’s cliché, a dirty old man who can’t keep his hands off young undergrads. But despite this self-awareness, he’s powerless to hypocrisies and contradictions: Avoid style, he says. It’s like an unwanted and distracting third party after setting up Reader and Story on a date. Pointing out that his own style is famously distinctive and widely imitated, Ángela reveals her immunity to this condescension and expresses annoyance about his easy generalities about her own generation. But, as he explains to Ángela, young people are free, unencumbered by obligation, and they can fly away; sleeping with her would be flying again, using her wings. That’s his excuse, anyway. Miguel uses her beauty and placid demeanor as a screen against which to project his memories of past adventures and the ghost of his libido.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2012