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The Miracle of Marcelino is a pleasant and well-made little film, but will prove completely acceptable only to those filled with Christmas or other spirits, and to the exceedingly devout.
To be commended are the extraordinarily sensitive photography and direction, but one must take exception to the sirupy nature of the plot and the almost gutless nature of its presentation. The sharp differentiation between good and evil is of the native fairly tale type.
The very Catholic exposition involves a waif who is left before the gates of a Franciscan monastery, is taken in by the monks, strikes up a friendship with a crucifix in the attic and is apotheosized at age five in a very unconvincing sequence as Marcelino Pan y Vino.
Nevertheless the incredible elements in the film are at least partly redeemed by a number of touches that have the ring of reality and pathos--Marcelino, the orphan, brilliantly played by Pablito Calvo stealing bread from the kitchen, or playing with an imaginary friend, or the monks' touching ineptness with the baby. Juan Calvo as Brother "Cooky" does a beautifully perceptive job of acting, depicting the conflict between his vocation as a monk and his fatherly love of the boy. The worst and most untenable scenes are those of the actual miracle and of Marcelino's absurdly saccharine inquiries about "mothers."
The sound has been dubbed in and subtitles abandoned, which in this case does not prove to be a very happy means of transcending the language barrier. The actors mouth one thing and the sound track disconcertingly says another. As well, much of the flavor and local color of the film is lost by translation. The voice dubbed in for Marcelino is obviously that of an adult. The music is however delightful and appropriate.
The film was made by a Spanish company in Spain, and viewed in its national context, it is hard to see how it could be other than over-pious, almost sanctimonious to American taste. Viewed with these conditions in mind--and taken with a block of salt--it is a very competent and sensitive film.
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