The One-Armed Trick

Like a cross between Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy and Christy Brown in My Left Foot, “Cuajo” (slang for tadpole) is a scrawny touchy gimp who won’t let disability stand in the way of his dreams. In a poor section of Barcelona, he wants to be a rapper, to build his own recording studio where he and his best friend Adolfo can make music, never mind that he cerebral palsy. Bathing and walking are a struggle, yet perhaps for this reason, he’s the most enterprising hustler in the hood. While most others around him, including Adolfo, struggle with drugs, Cuajo is ceaselessly working. The movie has all the same urgency, speeding through its simple, familiar story with convincing detail. This is the new polyglot Europe, where Arabs and African immigrants (including Adolfo’s father) live cramped together in public housing. A slo-mo wedding scene combines traditional Catalan dancing and hip-hop. Yet even as our two heroes seem on the verge of success, their families are mired in the old culture of despair. Failure and anger spread as if by virus from one generation to the next, giving the film a bleak, realistic tone. As Cuajo, rapper Juan Manuel “El Langui” Montillo gives a fierce, unsentimental performance. Confidently firing rapid-fire rhymes into the microphone, he’s utterly his own man, one who doesn’t need anyone else’s help or pity. (Plays at 7 p.m. as part of the Festival of New Spanish Cinema, running Oct. 15-21.) (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Oct. 15-21, 2009

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