Los Tarantos is a flamenco version of Romeo and Juliet set in Franco’s Spain. It is great fun. Everybody is dancing all the time. The Romeo character goes to his mum and is like, Mum, I love Juana!, and the maw’s like, No, she is from a rival clan and I will dance the dance of my hatred for them! And Juana’s like, I love your son, let me show you the depth of my love through dance! And the mum’s like, I forgive you, let us dance the dance of reconciliation. It’s brill.
It stars Carmen Amaya, the greatest flamenco dancer of her time, as the mother of Rafael (Romeo). Rafael was played by Daniel Martin, who also went on to be a great flamenco dancer, so the dancing in it is top notch.
The Montagues and Capulets of the tale are the Los Zorongas and Los Tarantos, feuding gypsy clans encamped in the Somorrostro district of Barcelona. Long ago, old Zoronga and old Taranto were rivals in love for Angustias (Carmen Amaya), but she married Taranto and had, by the looks of it when you first see their house, a million children. Jealousy ate at Zoronga until he dobbed Taranto into the fascist police, ridding himself of a rival and getting rewarded with cash in the process. Now he is a rich man, owning his own stables, and keeping company with the Pacoas, who helped him hand over Taranto to be killed, and who are all round bad eggs. While Angustias is left to raise her and Taranto’s kids with very little, poor as they are, they are nonetheless rich with love, music and dance. But a hatred for Los Zorongas burns in her heart.
The film begins when Curro Pacoas, a shitestirrer and brute, incites a fight by taking Zoronga’s son Jero to harass Los Tarantos selling paper flowers and overturning a wagon with a mother holding a baby inside. Jero is wounded in the fight and asks his father to take revenge on all Los Tarantos. His father sees that Curro and Jero were the ones clearly at fault and tells them to just mind their own business.
Meanwhile Rafael is dragged to a party by his friend, Mojigondo, who has hooked them up with a couple of tourists. To get into their pants, Moji takes them dancing in the Somorrostro, a gypsy encampment which became a shanty town district of Barcelona. Rafael half-heartedly follows, but once there, is struck by the beauty of one of the dancers.
Juana (Juliet) is the daughter of old Zoronga, and is there celebrating the wedding of her cousin. This involves showering the naked bride in her bed with flowers. Her cousin then gifts one of the flowers to Juana, telling her she will meet the man of her dreams one day. Juana goes outside to dance with her clan. There she sees Rafael and instantly falls in love.
They try to marry, but don’t have the papers. Rafael tells his mother of his love and Juana comes to beg for his mother’s blessing of their union. Although initially appalled, she knows all too well what strife in love feels like, and relents, admitting Juana is a good girl, blameless for her father’s faults.
However old Zoronga is having none of it, and locks Juana away in his mansion. Two weans have to sneak her a homing pigeon so she can send a message of her love to Rafael. Kids in the future will simply not believe that this was the equivalent of texting while grounded.
When this doesn’t work to split them up, Zoronga puts it about that he has betrothed her to Curro. It is Zoronga’s hope that one or both of them will grow despondent and give up their quest to be together, but Curro uses it as ammo to fuel further violence. When he can’t get a rise out of Rafael, he kills his friend Moji. Curro fully intends to take Juana as his wife, and when she steadfastly declares her love for Rafael, he beats her and attempts to rape her.
As the film reaches its climax, will the mad dog Curro be contained? Will Zoronga put Juana’s safety above his own pride? Will true love win out?
Great wee film, with cracking dancing.