Those of you with a marvellous memory may recall that a little while ago I mentioned I was watching a Spanish television series, and that the over-use of music was starting to grate, to the point where I was almost considering stopping midway through season one. All I can say is thank heavens to Betsy that I believe it is not only a woman’s prerogative to change one’s mind. I pursued, and am jolly well glad I did I can tell you.
“Velvet” is subtitled Spanish drama (with a small d) concerning the life and loves of the staff and owners of Madrid’s top fashion store in the nineteen-fifties. The store has been at the top of its game for decades and is pure Art Deco, which just happens to be one of my favourite eras. The interior shots are a sight to behold. Stunning shop floor spaces displaying the latest fashions for the great and the good of Madrid, beautiful mahogany lifts, panelled doors with Art Deco motifs, no detail has been left out. And that is just the building itself. Pure glamour through and through.
The premise is slightly reminiscent of ‘Downton Abbey’. The wealthy shop owners swanning around upstairs getting up to all sorts of mischief; the men all looking like Cary Grant at his finest, and the ladies appearing to have just stepped off the cover of Vogue. I haven’t seen so much silk and fur since Grandmama’s eightieth birthday bash. However, downstairs the seamstresses and porters all live in shared rooms, forever in overalls, having escaped boring country life for a chance of finding gold in the big city.
I do not want to give anything away, but I will say that both worlds tend to overlap in the search for love and lust. Frequently. The stuffiness of ‘Downton Abbey’ is replaced with a Mediterranean raunchiness that is in fitting with the changing times around the late fifties and early sixties. Women particularly seem to be in charge most of the time. How refreshing.
For anyone familiar with the work of Pedro Almodovar, there are elements of his use of heightened emotion and hysteria bordering on farce, which provide light relief from the Machiavellian shenanigans (don’t you just love that word) going on upstairs in the boardroom and surrounding offices. But, as you can imagine, some of those shenanigans find themselves slowly making their way upstairs.
One of my favourite things about watching a television series from a different country is that I usually have no idea who the actors are. This always adds to the believability in my eyes. And there are some stellar performances from actors who are obviously well known in their own country. The head of the workshop in charge of the seamstresses, ‘Dona Blanca, and the floor manager ‘Don Emilio’ are wonderfully cast. But for me, the flamboyant head designer ‘Raul de la Riva’ steals the show. He goes from drama to screeching schoolgirl at the drop of a hat and is a joy to behold.
“Velvet” comes with a word of warning though. It is a blockbuster of epic proportions. The four seasons each contain between ten and fifteen episodes, and each episode is over an hour long. Hubby and I have already munched our way through the seven boxes of ‘Quality Street’ and the eight boxes of ‘Baci’ we had leftover from Christmas. “Velvet” is an exercise in binge-watching at its finest, and a glorious feast for the eyes for both the ladies and the gentlemen out there. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.