If you were one of the many who didn’t see the 2014 Australian film The Little Death, directed by actor Josh Lawson, well now you can see the Spanish remake, which is in fact an improvement on the original. It may sound a little unusual for a little seen Australian film to be remade in Spain, but in this case it actually makes a lot of sense.
If there’s one thing the Spanish filmgoing public can’t get enough of, it’s ensemble sex comedies. The French translation of The Little Death, ‘la petite mort’, is a euphemism for an orgasm, and that’s what this multi-stranded film is all about. It follows several couples and their attempts to maintain (or regain) carnal satisfaction.
To be more specific, the film explores particular fetishes, and indeed helpfully displays the scientific name for each phenomenon on screen. For example, when we see Candela (Candela Peña) get turned on by the sight of her husband crying, we learn she is gripped by Dacryphilia. From hereon, Candela goes to extreme lengths to make her husband Antonio (Luis Callejo) cry just so she can enjoy sex with him.
Though the original Australian film had its merits, Kiki, Love to Love proves more successful. Spaniards, after all, are generally more sexually frank and so the film feels more natural because of it. It’s less vanilla than its Australian counterpart, and goes that little bit further. It actually feels more like a celebration of being different. And while the Australian version was criticised for being exclusively white and mono-cultured, Spanish society is by and large more homogenised anyway, so this feels more like a reflection of reality (and in fact makes reference to racism in a couple of the vignettes).
Kiki also departs from the original’s strictly hetero universe by giving us at least a little variation in terms of gender preference.
All the scenarios are worked over for laughs, although everyone will have their own threshold of where funny turns to tasteless. The most problematic involves José Luis and Palamo (Luis Bermejo and Mari Paz Sayago) which comes across as sad and creepy rather than amusing, José Luis’ outlet for satisfaction is watching Paloma sleep, and an initially accidental dosage of sleeping pills starts a pattern of nightly chemical sedation and non-consensual sexual activity.
The best sequence is actually not about one of the couples but features two strangers – a man and woman who are both hearing impaired. The woman works for a video relay service. The young man phones the service to be connected to an adult chat line and the telephonist has the cringe-inducing task of having to interpret the call.
Across the board, the attractive cast throw themselves into proceedings with great gusto, and director Paco León (who costars) shows a visual verve absent from The Little Death.
Also of note is the film’s opening credits, an arresting montage of split screen images intercutting the cast members with wild animals, all of them in the throes of passion. It’s an energetic prelude of what’s to come.
Kiki, Love to Love was a big hit in Spain and got a rousing reception at the Opening Night of this year’s Spanish Film Festival. Given there is a French remake on the way, among others, this is clearly a concept Europeans have taken a particular proclivity to.
Kiki, Love to Love is in national release from July 27
This review was originally published in April when Kiki Love to Love screened at the Spanish Film Festival
Richard Leathem @dickiegee