Friday, 25 February 2011

Pa negre / Black Bread (2010)

Director: Agustí Villaronga
Screenwriter: Agustí Villaronga, based on the book by Emili Teixidor
Cast: Francesc Colomer, Marina Comas, Nora Navas, Roger Casamajor, Laia Marull, Eduard Fernández, Sergi López.
Availability: the film is due out on DVD (with optional English subtitles) in Spain in March, and is currently available on the streaming site Filmin, here.

The silent knowledge of unquiet graves necessarily produced a devastating schism between public and private memory in Spain’ –Helen Graham (2005: 137)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Links round-up, 24th Februrary 2011

Some things that have been in the news in the past week.

Above is the first teaser poster for Almodóvar's La piel que habito, which was released last week by Agustín Almodóvar on facebook, and picked up by El País on their film blog Versión muy original.
According to IMDB, the film has a UK release date of 18th November.

Now that Álex de la Iglesia has stepped down as President of the Spanish Academy of the Arts and Cinematographic Sciences, attention has started to turn to the question of who his replacement might be. Fernando Trueba (currently promoting Chico y Rita in Spain) thinks that Alejandro Amenábar should be the next Academy President (but managed to stir up the Ley Sinde / Álex de la Iglesia debate again, here). While Bigas Luna has thrown his own hat into the ring.

That's it in terms of links this week, but I will be posting something about Pa negre (Villaronga, 2010) tomorrow.

Monday, 21 February 2011

¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival, 5th-27th March 2011

Just a brief links update-
The website for ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival, taking place at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester (UK) between 5th-27th March 2011, has now gone live -the full programme calendar can be seen here. You can find more information about the films by clicking on the titles within the calendar. You can also follow the Cornerhouse cinema on twitter here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Some random viewing

Spanish films that I have watched in the last couple of weeks (all via Filmin)

Clockwise from top left: Para que no me olvides (Ferreira, 2005), El penalti más largo del mundo (Santiago, 2005), La educación de las hadas (Cuerda, 2006), and Elisa K (Cadena and Colell, 2010).

Monday, 14 February 2011

The 25th Goya Awards: the winners

At the moment the official website for the Goyas seems to be inaccessible -when I'm able to get onto it, I'll add some links here. In the meantime -
El País has the full list of winners here
Fotogramas have photogalleries of the red carpet, the show, the winners, and video footage.
Pa negre was the big winner, winning 9 Goyas out of 14 nominations including Best Film, Best Director, and 4 of the acting categories. The other frontrunners fared less well –También la lluvia (13 nominations) picked up 3 (Supporting Actor, Music, and Production Direction), as did Buried (Sound, Editing, Original Screenplay), and Balada triste de trompeta won 2 of its 15 categories (Make-Up and Special Effects).
The main categories were as follows:

Álex de la Iglesia’s Goya speech, 13th February 2011:

Someone has probably already translated this somewhere, and Alt Film Guide has a condensed version here, but this is my translation based on the transcript that El País put online almost immediately after the speech was given (they also have video). Please let me know if there are any errors (there were a couple of phrases I was unsure of).

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Resources: where to buy / watch / read about Spanish cinema

Films and DVDs –
      The UK distribution of Spanish films on DVD has improved in the last few years, and there are a number of options in terms of buying them within the UK. Amazon UK currently has quite a lot of Spanish DVDs for under £5 (go into DVD > World Cinema > Spanish) and Moviemail also often have good offers on foreign language cinema. However there are a lot of Spanish films that don’t get released over here but are released in Spain with optional English subtitles (this is more true of contemporary films than older classics, but there is nonetheless a wide range available with subtitle options). If you’re unsure about ordering from Spain, there are quite a lot of Spanish sellers selling Spanish DVDs on ebay UK (DVDs > Foreign Language > Spanish) –the prices sometimes seem a little steep but consider that they quite often offer free postage and have factored that into their asking price (standard postage for one DVD being sent from Spain to the UK seems to be around 12€). I have ordered DVDs through ebay in this way and have never had any problem.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

And the nominees are....(Los Premios Goya 2011)

      It’s actually a bit late in the day to write anything about the nominations for the (25th) Goya awards (‘Los Premios Goya’), given that they take place this Sunday (13th February) –so I’m just going to list the main categories and I’ll write something about the winners next week. The interesting thing from a British perspective is that only ‘Spanish’ films can be nominated (the classification can either be linked to Spanish money contributing to the financing of the film, or through the use of Spanish personnel –for example, The Others is classified as a Spanish film and won ‘Best Film’ in 2002, and Steven Soderbergh’s Che was part-financed by Spain, meaning that Benicio del Toro was eligible to be nominated for, and win, ‘Best Actor’ in 2009). So, unlike the BAFTAs, the Goyas aren’t dominated by Hollywood (the only categories for ‘foreign’ films are ‘Best European Film’ and ‘Best Latin American Film’), which leaves room for genre cinema to be acknowledged and a broader range of performances to be considered. The three frontrunners this year in terms of number of nominations are Balada triste de trompeta / Sad Trumpet Ballad (dir. Álex de la Iglesia) with 15 nominations, Pa negre / Black Bread  (dir. Agustí Villaronga) with 14 nominations, and También la lluvia / Even the Rain (dir. Icíar Bollaín) with 13 nominations.

The main categories are as follows-

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Directorial debuts: a bit of context

     Directorial debuts are a good place to start because of the massive influx of new talent that Spanish cinema saw during the 1990s: the fact that there has been a ‘Best New Director’ category in the Goyas (the national film awards) since 1990 is indicative of the growing number of new directors. Between 1990 and 1998, 25 percent of films produced were by first-time directors (Heredero 1999: 12), and by 2001 225 ópera primas (‘directorial debuts’) had been created in the space of twelve years (Heredero 2003: 32). Although the new directors are sometimes grouped together under the title of ‘Joven Cine Español’ (‘Young Spanish Cinema’), there was no official school for them to have collectively studied at and they are a ‘generation’ only by coincidence of the timing of their debuts; they cannot be said to form a group or movement in the manner of former collections of directors because their work encompasses such a disparate range of styles and genres.

Where to begin?

It is difficult to decide where to begin when approaching a topic as broad as a national cinema. This blog will, initially at least, mainly be concentrating on Spanish cinema from the 1990s onwards because that is the period that I am most familiar with (and makes up the bulk of my Spanish DVD collection). But even reducing the scope to that timeframe still offers more than twenty years of cinema. So I’ve decided to start with ‘beginnings’ as a jumping off point and to look at some of the directorial debuts made in Spanish cinema since the early 1990s. This is has the dual purpose of a) making me write about films I haven’t written about (and in some cases haven’t seen) before, and b) highlighting some of the really interesting filmmakers who have emerged in Spanish cinema in the last twenty years. This will be a thread that I return to while I get the blog off the ground and get into some sort of writing routine –but there will be posts about other things as well. Also, although I am going to start with some films from the early 1990s, I’m not going to work through the directorial debuts in chronological order. Feel free to make some suggestions for possible films for me to write about in the comments below.

Monday, 7 February 2011

An introduction:

     I should introduce myself so that you know where I’m coming from and what I intend to do with this blog. I have an academic background but I’m not currently working in academia; I got my PhD almost a year ago and I completely stopped writing at that point (for a variety of reasons). The first purpose of this blog (from my point of view) is to make me start writing again because I have discovered in the past year that I’m someone who does their thinking through writing –my brain has been turning to mush through inactivity. So I decided to try writing in a different way, and gave myself a New Year’s resolution of starting a blog about Spanish cinema. Which brings me to the second purpose of this blog: to get a conversation going (in English) about Spanish cinema.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Four forthcoming Spanish films to see in 2011:

Blackthorn (Mateo Gil, 2011)
Synopsis –effectively ‘Butch Cassidy: the later years’. Cast includes Sam Shepherd (as Cassidy), Eduardo Noriega (as an engineer who persuades Butch to go on one last job), and Magaly Solier.
Reasons to see: I’m unsure of the wisdom of revisiting such an iconic character, but this blog takes its name from Gil’s directorial debut and, some twelve years later, this is his second film.

Extraterrestre / Extraterrestrial (Nacho Vigalondo, 2011)
Synopsis – What do you do if there is an alien invasion the same day that you meet the girl of your dreams? Sci-fi comedy.
Reasons to see –Vigalondo seems to be a truly original new voice in cinema.

La piel que habito / The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
Synopsis – There actually seems to be some confusion in the press about this long-gestating project, probably because the description of its relation to Thierry Jonquet’s Tarantula has moved from ‘based on’ to ‘inspired by’. Almodóvar describes it as a mixture of film noir, sci-fi, and horror. What most articles I’ve seen agree on is that it’s about a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who seeks revenge for the rape of his daughter. But apparently he also wants to create a ‘new skin’ thanks to advances in cell science. Update (10th Feb): the January 2011 issue of Screen International describes the plot as 'the story of an eminent plastic surgeon who becomes obsessed with creating new skin following the death of his wife who was burnt in a car crash, but who takes his experiments to frightening levels'. That perhaps makes more sense in relation to the image above. Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes also star.
Reasons to see: a new Almodóvar film is always a ‘must see’ for me, but this is also the first re-teaming of Almodóvar and Banderas since 1991 (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down). 

Primos / Cousins (Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, 2011)
Synopsis –a young man (Quim Gutiérrez) is dumped on his wedding day and his cousins help him deal with the aftermath. Comedy.
Reasons to see: I really like Sánchez Arévalo’s first two films (AzulOscuroCasiNegro / DarkBlueAlmostBlack and Gordos / Fat People) and this is a more of an out-and-out comedy than those two, but reunites several cast members from the earlier films (Gutiérrez, Raúl Arévalo, and Antonio de la Torre) and has been receiving excellent reviews in Spain.

Four Spanish films from 2010 to see in 2011

Agnosia (Eugenio Mira, 2010)
Synopsis –A young woman (Bárbara Goenaga) with a condition (agnosia) that means that she cannot recognise faces becomes a target in a plot to steal a scientific secret of her father’s. Key point gleaned from the trailer: the actors playing her fiancé (Eduardo Noriega) and one of the household servants (Félix Gómez) have been made to look physically similar.
Reasons to see: The opulent setting (Barcelona at the end of the 19th century) combined with the components of a romance and the psychological thriller suggests a handsome and intriguing film.

Balada triste de trompeta / Sad Trumpet Ballad (Álex de la Iglesia, 2010)
Synopsis –A circus in 1973 becomes the battleground for a fight to the death between two clowns (Carlos Areces and Antonio de la Torre) for the love (and possession) of a dancer (Carolina Bang).
Reasons to see: de la Iglesia’s films are always worth seeing and the trailer for this one makes it look seriously unhinged. It sharply divided the critics when it was released in Spain –that kind of disparity of opinion is always interesting.

Pan negro / Black Bread (Agustí Villaronga, 2010)
Synopsis –in the post-Civil War years, a boy finds two dead bodies in the forest. When the authorities attempt to hang the blame on his father, the boy decides to find the real culprit but the pursuit of the truth is dangerous when adults are constructing lives based on lies.
Reasons to see: it’s the dark horse in this year’s Goya race (the 14 nominations it received took critics by surprise and gave it a new lease of life at the box office).

Una hora más en Canarias / One More Hour in the Canaries (David Serrano, 2010)
Synopsis –a guy (Quim Gutiérrez) goes on holiday with his new girlfriend, with his ex in hot pursuit. Comedy ensues.
Reasons to see: I like musical comedies (although admittedly the trailer doesn’t show much singing).