A modern western at an electronics fair
by Sergio Ríos Pérez
25/04/2012 - “Where have the salesmen gone?” wonder two characters in A puerta fría by Xavi Puebla, an outstanding film recently screened in the competition at the 15th Málaga Spanish Film Festival.
The film’s setting is a very bland space resembling a hotel (at one point it seems to be in Sevilla, but it could also be anywhere else in Spain) hosting an electronics trade fair. The plot, in tone, is almost that of a twilight western, with its double shots of whisky, empty gazes, faces defeated by time, and moral dilemmas in which the characters’ pride is of little importance.
After the success of his previous film Welcome to Farewell-Gutmann (2008) at the festival, in his third feature Puebla tackles the economic crisis and its consequences on veteran salesmen. But rather than a socially-committed film, a territory that he agilely avoids, it is a drama driven by its main character veteran salesman Salvador Lozano (played by Antonio Dechent who could very well win Best Actor for the role), his fears (premature retirement, to lose the job that gives meaning to his wretched life) and his ambiguous relationship with young hostess Inés (María Valverde).
Lozano must sell so as not to be replaced by younger, more prepared people with a better understanding of the business. He knows that the biggest fish at the fair is foreign company representative Mr. Battleworth (Nick Nolte). The latter has entrenched himself in his suite, but he will get through to him thanks to Inés.
The characters in this Maestranza Films production are imperfect and defeated, but nevertheless have an air of grandeur and great charisma about them. Just like the cowboys of the Far West, they would never have imagined a different life for themselves. In a world that already happily does without them, salesmen, like cowboys, are remnants of the past.
“Where have the salesmen gone?” they ask. And one of them answers: “Surely not to Heaven!”
(Translated from Spanish)