! Critic Judy Stone
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It is no accident that "Cria!" is so reminiscent of that other mysterious Spanish gem about childhood, "Spirit of the Beehive."

When director Carlos Saura saw that production with Ana Torrent, its tiny, incandescent star, he was determined to make a film with her. Her black eyes seem fathomless, reflecting unblinkingly on the puzzles of death, life and love that pass before her. They are the eyes of a miniature Jacqueline Kennedy, deep wellsprings observing tragedy and contemplating judgments.

In Victor Erice's "Spirit of the Beehive," Ana was traumatized by seeing the film "Frankenstein," by death inflicted on a prisoner she befriended, by her own imagination that raced beyond the bounds of reality.

The central fact of death is with her again in "Cria!",deaths in which the character, Ana, feels somehow implicated. The title of the film is a Spanish proverb: "Cria cuervos y te sacaran los ojos." (Bring up crows and they will pick your eyes out.)

Walking around in the early dawn when she should be sleeping, she hears the noises of passion from her father's bedroom, then strangled cries, a woman - half-dressed - rushes out, and the child stares at her implacably. The father is dead; his daughter is untouched.

With this introduction, Saura draws us magnetically into the vulnerable arena of childhood with Ana and her two sisters , but we see the life around them through little Ana's eyes. In them, remorse and sorrow and remembered joy are reserved for their beloved mother, who died some years earlier. Her image appears again and again, displacing the intruders left to care for them: a taut, unfulfilled aunt and silent, smiling, paralyzed grandmother.

There is a constant subtle shift in Ana's frame of reference: past, present and future. A deliberate element of confusion is introduced with Geraldine Chaplin playing both the mother and Ana as an adult, but it never overwhelms the delicate balance of this fragile memoir in which Ana tries to sort out the responsibility for the deaths she has had to face.

Saura's direction is extraordinarily sensitive as Chaplin and the child create a charmed magic circle of love between them. Chaplin, all tender radiance with the child, is the nagging neurotic with her husband; her face drawn with aching needs, real and imaginary pain.

There is a moment when the child senses why her father was attracted to the healthy sensual wife of his best friend; Ana absorbs with calm, slightly confused interest, the intimate gossip of the lusty, full-bodied woman who is the maid of all work in this contemporary upper-class Madrid household.

Although Chaplin's role is subordinate to Ana's, all of her potential as a truly great actress comes alive under Saura's masterly handling, both as script writer and director, of nuances of character. But "Cria!" is not merely a vehicle for two star performances; it is a profoundly observed and truly haunting film about the perils of passage through childhood.

San Francisco Chronicle July 27, 1977