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A "must see" film for those who enjoy Spanish cinema
This is a 'must see' for those who enjoy Spanish Cinema. It is the first film made by a woman during General Franco's Dictatorship, Ana Mariscal, who was much appreciated as an actor in the years following the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). She had, however, to create her own production company in order to go ahead with her project. With little finances and the help of friends from the film world, the production went ahead on a shoe string. Much was by necessity shot in the streets of Madrid. This caused many problems with the Official Censorship Office, which required numerous cuts and a modified ending since it presented an image of Spain which implicitly contradicted the official government propaganda of prosperity for all under the regime. As they present the struggling characters, the locations and real streets of a struggling Madrid none the less constitute one of the present merits of the film. The Quixotic pair were not played by professional actors, yet Severiano Población as Segundo López (a paleto, or naïve provincial, who comes to the city to try his luck with his inheritance) and Martín Ramírez as his side-kick El Chirri act their part convincingly. Ana Mariscal cast herself as the sick Marta, and the episodes are framed by an indigent writer keeping warm in a café and engaging with the couple; he is played by Leocadio Mejías the author of the original tale that inspired the film. Tony Leblanc makes an appearance as a struggling photographer trying to explore tourists and migrants as they arrive at the railway station. There is no substantial plot but a tale of survival in a series of connected episodes which allow the subject matter and implicit social commentary to be treated lightly, with humour and even farce on occasion. One of these episodes includes the director Manuel Mur Oti, playing a film director making his own film and needing extras.
Amor idiota (2004)
Give the film the chance it deserves
I wonder if previous contributors watched the dubbed mono-lingual Castilian version rather than the original bi-lingual version (subtitles available on the DVD). I have always mistrusted dubbed films, because the dubbing voice always betrays and frequently contradicts the characters, and at times even the actor (it is said that when Humphrey Bogart visited Madrid, fans believed he was a look alike sent to Spain because the pitch of his voice did not match his dubbed Spanish voice). As mentioned by previous post the Castilian dubbed version is painful to watch, saw it last night on International TVE.es. But give the film the chance it deserves. I first saw the film in its original bilingual version and loved it... Under-rated, it is a delightful romantic comedy between opposites, chalk and cheese, emphasised by the Catalan-Castilian contrast of the soundtrack, which all beautifully conveys the contradictions of the relationship that defies all logic (but when was "love" logical?). Ventura Pons keeps us wondering how will this boy-meets-girl will end. Without discussing the implicit details of regional identities and stereotypes, or the tradition of Calderón's sword and dagger plays, where intelligent girls win their inept and incompetent galanes (The House with Two Doors, The Phantom Lady, My Lady First and Foremost, etc), this film has much to offer if only the original version is viewed. The characterisation works. And indeed, Ventura Pons so often manages to stretch his spectators' preconception to see relationships in a different light. And if you do eventually enjoy the story of this looser, who does find a girl, try "O ano da carracha / El año de la garrapata", Jorge Coira's first film recommended to me in 2005 by the salesman at the DVD counter of the Corte Inglés in Santiago de Compostela, one of the most informed cinephiles I have ever met.
Hay un camino a la derecha (1953)
"Hay un camino a la derecha - There is a Path to the Right" is a black-market related crime drama set in a gritty Barcelona and its docks. It focuses on Miguel (Paco Rabal) and his circumstances, also using "street urchins" who were frequently included in urban films of the time, especially those dealing with the difficulties of the (un-)employment situation. Much of the film is shot on location, and thus visually chronicles the city in the early fifties this was in itself frowned on by the censors. The film is introduced with a typical moralistic voice-over, confirming the title's Biblical resonance, introducing with its flash-forward the resolution of the drama and emphasising the family values of the regime, which sets up the suspense of how will the plot get the spectators to its conclusion. This morality is however questioned by the harsh reality of the setting, Inspector Tormo's tie and suit, covering an over-sized and ill-fitting white shirt, and the excessive introduction. Both Rivera Boleta and Paco Rabal went on to make more films, implicitly critical of the Regime's values and the implementation of these values. The film is released on DVD by Filmax, but does not provide subtitles.
Aborto criminal (1973)
this film requires contextualisation
A needed perspective Whilst not disagreeing with all the previous harsh comments, a sense of historical perspective is useful when trying to understand, over thirty years later, a film made and released in 1973 and thus make the most of the experience. With this more cautious perspective cinema becomes a powerful reflection of the past in need of interpretation. Iquino made his first films during that potential Golden Age of Spanish Cinema in 1934. After the war he set up "film factories" in and around Barcelona, predominantly for crime films, usually made on small budgets within the limits of strict and, by our standards, frequently puerile censorship. As a producer, screenwriter and director he none the less often raised implicit questions about the imposed values of the regime and their frequent hypocritical implementations. The early seventies were socially very difficult and as political dissent became more vocal and violent in Spain and the authorities more repressive, so film censorship became more permissive in sexual matters perhaps to provide a safety valve for pent up testosterone and re-locate it from street protests to cinema theatres period referred to as the "destape". Iquino is adapting to the changes with this criminal investigation of abortion practices, all illegal, with the presence of an affluent and limited hippie culture. The perspective adopted earned the film the official "Interés especial" the seal of approval from the Establishment. Iquino, however, also points the finger at preferential treatments based on economic differences and the final sequence does raise the silent question, where does the responsibility lie? Were the real culprits found guilty? (Keep a discrete eye for the road-worker and his pneumatic drill.) It must also be remembered that the regime would not tolerate the representation of its police force as ever failing in its responsibilities (hence the power of José Antonio Zorrilla's 1983 "EI arreglo").
Delicate and personalised
A delicate and personalised exploration of the effects that can sometimes be caused by the rigid indoctrination of the official puritanical, and too often hypocritical, family and sexual values of the Franco Dictatorship. A vulnerable "Agony Aunt" Irene Galdos (Marilina Ross), who lives with her elder sister (Mary Carillo), comes to terms with the advice she gives daily on her radio programme sponsored by feminine beauty products, when a troubled Soledad (Adolfo Marsillach, in one of his few cinema performances) writes in with his problems to the programme. The years of the Dictatorship are beautifully evoked through the controlled performances, the mise-en-scene, and colour photography, as well as the Galician setting and the ever present radio, which capture a previous decade.
César y Zaín (2005)
A message of needed hope
César lives in Madrid and Zain in New Delhi, and they are real people each with his own family. Both have since then moved on and started their careers. Great for El Deseo to have taken up and released Larry Levene's documentary,contextualised against the 7/11 tragedy. The documentary reacts against easy polarisations and generalisations to take up the positive reading that personal knowledge can lead to tolerance and collaboration whereas ignorance breeds fear, and unfortunately for mankind, violence. Obviously edited, and there is no time to blink, the experience still comes over as convincing and fresh through the personal reactions of an exchange visit between New Delhi and Madrid of the two internet chess players and friends.
Bahía de Palma (1962)
Some films like 'Last Tango in Paris' 1972, or in Spain 'La trastienda-Back of the Store' 1975, are only remembered for a landmark detail in the history of cinema restrictions/censorship that has little impact on the story explored on screen. In this case a very brief shot of two blonds in bikinis; the first shown in a Spanish film. The brief (and now demure) scene, nonetheless creates the same "steamy" feeling of desire that was previously captured in Fred Zinnemann's 1953 'From Here to Eternity'. This summer tryst set on the island of Mallorca, with all its tourists, concerns a spoilt and bored heiress (Olga/Elke Sommer), whose only pleasure appears to be humiliating others, and a surly pianist with an uncomfortable past (Mario/Arturo Fernández), who should be playing Chopin rather than provide the ambiance in a open air night club! Note the care taken by Elke Sommer's hair stylist.
A sangre fría (1959)
Crime in Spanish film of the fifties
Spanish crime films in the fifties and sixties had to be scripted under the limiting scrutiny of the Censorship Board (JSOC), and the Police could only be presented as efficient and exemplary in all circumstances. The ending was therefore predictable, but script-writers could focus on the suspense of how the police got there. This is not really explained in the film which, through the action, focuses on the criminals' psychology and relationships. If the film glosses over the police investigation, not to upset the censors, this is compensated by the fragments it offers of urban Spain (Barcelona) in the late fifties (high-rise buildings in the blue colour outskirts and Jazz Club or pelota matches in the centre). The film was re-re-released as a DVD in 2008, Spanish language only, as one of a six-pack collection of films all starring the always impeccably dressed leading man Arturo Fernández. (bpeb)
El mar y el tiempo (1989)
The waves on the beach
The sea (el mar) is the Atlantic, with its eternal waves, that for 30 years separated two brothers after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The older brother returns from Buenos Aires to Madrid to reconnect with his family. Time (el tiempo), memories and the older generation have changed everything, and recovering the past is difficult. Made in 1989 the film is set in 1968 evoking its social unease exploding in the street manifestations of Madrid, repeated in Paris that month of May. The social tensions are set against the background of the family's personal problems. Not to be missed is the performance of the two brothers, and their rather confused mother (suggesting an even older Spain). bpeb
Tic Tac (1997)
The passage of time
A beautiful and imaginative film, perfect for Christmas or, in Spain, for January 6 when children traditionally write their letter to three Kings of the East to send their list of presents. Young Hector is travelling with his parents from Barcelona to France to visit his grandmother and is stranded on a remote train station. It is no ordinary place as the minutes and the hours on the platform clock start to disappear and Hector is left with a mysterious family that will help him break the spell prompted by his wish to the Kings. The children will have to overcome various challenges in a spellbound world combining ballet and song. Director Rosa Verges explains that she originally intended to make a film for children and ended up making a film with children (DVD extras). The DVD can be viewed in the original Catalan or dubbed Castilian version.