Poetic Street Walker Blues

Princesas. 2005. Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa

We all want. We all need. We share those wants and needs and they go on, endlessly. Loneliness, like a phone call in a small, public phone booth. The child, thousands of miles away. The mother, in another world, making a living as best she can, sending money home, hoping to bring the child there or go back. Madrid is nothing like the Caribbean. Nothing like the Dominican Republic.

Class and race, immigrants and turf. But mostly turf. New girls on the block, immigrants, the street, the Calle, selling for less, hustling just a little bit harder. Making life tougher for the established girls, the ones from Madrid. But there are beautiful moments and sublime times. Dancing, laughing, showing off the Eternal Feminine for cars and more cars. For the Street. The poetry of that. The exquisite gestures looking into cars. The slow sadness of hard lives facing other hard lives. The sadness, the tragedy of exploitation. The loneliness of it all. But sudden friendships grow out of danger and pain. Solidarity comes from that, from facing obstacles together and getting through them. Though they shouldn’t have to so often. They shouldn’t have to face that pain again and again.

No one is fooled, really. Perhaps not even the families. They may just play along. They may just pretend to not notice the odd cell phone calls. But within that family, within that middle class organism, others play games and fool themselves and their children. It’s not just the one who walks the streets. It’s not just Caye.

This is a very good film. It’s moving and honest and has a heart. It lets you into another world, which is the best thing movies can do. Transport you to other worlds you might never have known otherwise. At least for a moment or two. It makes you think and feel new things. When art does that, it succeeds in fulfilling much of its mission.

The lead actresses are tremendous. Candela Peña plays Caye, the prostitute with the soul of a philosopher, though she does not know it yet. Micaela Nevárez plays Zulema, an illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic who works the streets to support her son back home. Their friendship is like a warm rain after years of drought, giving both women exactly what they need at that moment in time. An echo. A home. A sign that luck will change. That they can do better and will.

It’s a world that most of us know nothing about, but is everywhere. Here’s a story about that everywhere, set in Madrid, set right under our noses.


Poetic Street Walker Blues
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