The announcement that the duet of Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi was going to tell the life of Cristina Ortiz, La Veneno, in a miniseries (Veneno, whose first chapter reaches Atresplayer Premium on Sunday 29, the rest of the series will have to wait for the after the alarm state) was as surprising as it was predictable. On the one hand, La Veneno is on the opposite side to the universe of these creators. She was self-loathing, marginality, and bravery; they, order, brightness and affectivity. On the other hand, it made sense: Cristina’s death in 2016 made her a pagan goddess and Calvo and Ambrossi are the maximum exponent of that newly minted paganism in which anything (Family Doctor, Amaia or a torrezno) is susceptible to rise to the category of instant icon. His approach to that modernity, curiously, is quite conservative: transvestites, prostitutes, fat women, chonis and thugs seek, in the end, redemption, forgiveness, knowledge. They want to be characters of Gregg Araki, but they go through the same dramatic arc as those of Doris Day. It is not necessarily bad, go: it’s called style and that’s yours.
Calvo and Ambrossi have been among the first to approach contemporary Spanish popular culture without a hint of cynicism (even Almodóvar, someone so attached to the popular in his films of the past, has treated television in his films with condescending distance). For example, when the plot of Venom is developed in 1996, while Cristina is discovered by Tonight we crossed the Mississippi, the writing of the Pepe Navarro program is shot — how good that sequence of Lola Dueñas arriving on the set — as if it were that of The Washington Post. That epic may be exaggerated, but it’s also welcome: Let’s celebrate the entertainment of people who know that entertainment is a very important thing.
The other plot line of the first episode jumps to 2006, ten years later, when La Veneno’s life has taken a radical turn and has become a dispossession that lives on loan in the Valencian house of her friend Paca la Piraña (who, doing of itself, is the great revelation of all this). There she is discovered by Valeria, who is the author of the memories on which the series is based and at the same time its main character. Valeria (Vegas), fascinated since she was little with La Veneno, follows her advice when starting her own transition. In any other series, the viewer would wonder with concern if an ex-prostitute and convicted person is the ideal person to advise a confused teenager. In this, there is no need to fear: everyone is good.
The young Poison does not appear too much in this first episode and that contributes to portraying her as a superhero who comes and goes from the shadows (precious those moments in which her angelic halo is, in reality, the light of a waiting customer’s car to receive fellatio in exchange for 5,000 pesetas). This is not the case of La Veneno mayor, which does appear and gives the best moments of the episode. If Cristina rejects fame in the 1996 subplot, in 2006 she urgently yearns for it and invites the only fan to knock on her door.
Sometimes, the series looks like that major Poison: she is seen desperate to get us into her house and offer us cupcakes. Calvo and Ambrossi fans will be delighted to accept them. The rest will watch with suspicion that diabetic style that often becomes a template: every ten minutes a character experiences a revelation while a soft piano sounds and a voice insists on verbalizing the line spacing that we have been seeing for an hour. With you, the best and worst of Paquita Salas, a product that is at its best a loving and fun adaptation and at worst a tangle of neon lights engulfing a container.
It is great that this series exists and that it will be seen by many young people. To the others, to the curmudgeons, let us fantasize about what Eloy de la Iglesia, Carlos Saura or Bigas Luna could have done with the same material.