Mónica Del Raval
There’s not a lot of information kicking around about Mónica Del Raval – as far as I can tell, the screening I attended this week at the Institut Français’ Cine Lumière was the only time it will hit a big screen in the UK. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t catch it – the helpful people at Culture Unplugged are hosting the film online in its entirety (here), and if you’re at a loose end/pining for more surreal documentary fodder in the wake of I’m Still Here then you absolutely must find a couple of hours and watch it. It is positively the most interesting film about a fat, toothless Spanish whore with a fondness for fried chicken that you will ever see.
NB: the trailer below isn’t subtitled, but watch it anyway. It’s worth it just for Mónica’s eyeshadow
Mónica Coronado, who as far as I can make out is about 46 at the time of writing, grew up as Ramona in a small town in La Mancha. She started turning tricks as a teenager when she realised that her extraordinary promiscuity could be a source of business as well as pleasure, and left her hometown to escape the derision and disgust of her neighbours and family. Since then, she has apparently bedded more than 10,000 ‘johns’ (I’ve always objected to that term) in cities across Spain, operating under a plethora of false names and flitting from one inexplicable relationship to another as she pursues her driving imperative – to have as much sex as humanly possible.
We are never completely sure that Mónica Del Raval is a documentary, but the longer you watch the harder it becomes to believe that anyone could have made up the characters onscreen. After the death of her long-term partner, a fantasist who pretended to be a bank manager and took her to expensive restaurants where he ate like a pig and explosively broke wind, she took up with a disgruntled cook called José who seems to be happy with what is essentially his timeshare of her vagina. Extraordinarily, José was even happy to move into a flat with one of Mónica’s admirers, who paid rent and bills in exchange for free access to his girlfriend. The couple has since moved to a separate flat upstairs, but Mónica still demands that Enrico pop out and fetch her chicken and chips on a regular basis. He acquiesces, but bitches about not being allowed freebies in return. “What does he want?” sniffs Mónica. “I give him a 50% discount, and he gets loads of free handjobs.”
Prostitution: the lighter side
Whether or not it’s real, this is a fascinating film. Beautifully shot in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district and featuring many prominent local characters (my favourite was the transsexual prostitute who regularly sodomised an old man in return for having her dog walked), it is a surreal and wonderful tale of a monstrous and unpleasant woman whose genuine belief in her sexual majesty is somehow intoxicating. And indeed, who can argue with 10,000 satisfied customers? Mónica is frequently hilarious without meaning to be – she compares herself to Margaret Thatcher, speaks of her brief past as an Avon lady and explains how she attracts English customers with a muttered “Fucky fucky!”.
Funny though it is, there is a deeply depressing undercurrent to the film – Mónica seems happy enough, but her powers are clearly on the wane and she won’t be able to pay off the gas man with blowjobs forever. One line in particular encapsulated the transient and ultimately unrewarding nature of her profession – Mónica recounted how José had made a lovely ratatouille only for a john to call her just as it was served. “I knew he would finish quickly, so I went and screwed him,”, she said. “We heated the ratatouille up later, but it just wasn’t the same.”