We were a long way from the multiplex, at least spiritually, during aGLIFF. Few 20-screen behemoths would show a musical about a narcoleptic pre-op transsexual who's trying to save money for the big operation. Fortunately, Austin audiences got a chance to see the Spanish film 20 Centimeters during the festival last weekend, and the movie screened to a fairly full theater.
I'm sure that somewhere out there, people are trying to describe 20 Centimeters by referencing other films: "It's Hedwig and the Angry Inch meets Pedro Almodovar!" "Imagine Chicago if Renee Zellweger had an eight-inch ..." Ahem. Although the film does intersperse over-the-top musical numbers with a serious storyline, it's not derivative, although it is sprinkled with film in-jokes -- for example, one dance number was oddly reminiscent of Grease.
Marieta (Monica Cervera) is a pre-op transsexual, nee Adolfo, who dresses and identifies as a woman except for those 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches, baby) that she hopes will be surgically removed someday. She turns tricks to earn money, but wants a legitimate job even if it's working as a night-shift janitor in a bank. She's also narcoleptic -- during especially emotional or stressful times, she falls asleep. Her dreams are the often-elaborate musical numbers that appear throughout the film. Marieta is living with Tomas (Miguel O'Dogerty), whom she by turns abuses as a "dwarf" and cuddles with in the bath. But she swoons over Raul (Pablo Puyol), the hunky fruit stocker at the market, who wears leather jackets and takes her for rides on his motorcycle. She and her neighbor Berta (Concha Galan) dream of the day they will escape to Brazil, where everything is cheaper and better, including the surgery.