Saturday, 29 October 2011

Excuses, excuses

So, only two proper posts in October isn't exactly me managing to keep to my normal schedule, is it. I underestimated the impact of increasing my working hours and also failed to take into account that as well as working almost full-time Monday - Friday, I'm also on a rota for weekend work. I don't want the blog to turn into 'work' whereby I start to feel pressure to post something (anything!), but I will aim to get at least 3 posts done in November. I'd like to aim to post something once a week -I think that will be manageable once I get into a better routine, so please bear with me for the time being.
I'm going to start being more flexible about the format of the Random Viewing posts; I've been holding off posting the next one because I watched two films a couple of weeks ago but haven't had the chance to watch any more, and I usually write about four films at a time. Given that my viewing habits are somewhat curtailed at the moment (I'm unlikely to watch four films in one week), I'm going to try and post more frequently by grouping films into pairs rather than quartets (unless there is a reason for a set of films to be discussed together -although if there's a thread, then it's not really 'random' viewing anyway). The first of these posts will appear next week.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

New Book Added to List

Torres Hortelano, L.J. (ed.) (2011) - Directory of World Cinema: Spain, Bristol: Intellect. ISBN: 9781841504636

This book forms part of a relatively new series from Intellect looking at various world cinemas. The aim is that future volumes will be added to each country's directory every couple of years (this volume makes tentative references to possible subjects to be included in future editions). On the back cover it says: 'Each volume of the directory will take the form of a collection of reviews, longer essay, and research resources, accompanied by film stills highlighting significant films and players.'
The book is divided into different sections encompassing focusses on specific directors, locations, film festivals, cultural background, and genres. The genres (some of which are specific to Spain) form the backbone of the directory with the ten different genre sections including an essay and then reviews of ten films that fall within that genre (although this is sometimes 'loosely' / bizarrely interpreted -for example, how did Cesc Gay's En la ciudad come to be classified as 'Experimental Documentary'?). Although 100 films are included, the editor is very clear in saying that this is not a '100 Best Spanish Films' enterprise, but rather the intention is to give a flavour of the variety within Spanish cinema. Future volumes would look at different genres. One could argue about the omissions (I know that it is often said that Almodóvar overshadows everyone else, but to only include one Almodóvar film feels an overcorrection too far in the other direction -especially when other directors have multiple films included. Plus, the Torrente phenomenon deserves some coverage) but, as this is seen as a project that will develop over time, perhaps those absences will be addressed in the future ('films about the Civil War' is a category that is mentioned for inclusion in the possible second volume).
This is more a book to dip in and out of rather than to read cover to cover (I haven't read all of it yet), but it's probably a good starting point for someone who is interested in watching Spanish films but doesn't know where to begin. As is often the case with books with multiple contributors (70, in this case), the style and quality of the writing is variable (some of the reviews lean towards the descriptive rather than the analytical, others seem to have suffered in translation), but an interesting aspect to the collection of contributors is how many of them are Spanish; it is relatively rare to see Spanish views on Spanish cinema published in English. Overall, a good introduction to the variety that Spanish cinema has to offer, but more of a starting point for further investigation than a one-stop-shop.
The table of contents is below, and because the impetus behind my starting the book lists was my frustration with being unable to find out what films are covered in a particular book, I'm going to include the (original) film titles of those reviewed in the various sections (but not the contributor names because of the vast number).

Introduction by the Editor
Film of the Year: Biutiful
Interview with Jaime Rosales
Industry Spotlight: Spanish Film Production
Cultural Crossover
-Influence of European Avant-garde
-Representations of Violence
-Don Quixote Visual Ridings
Festival Focus
-Semana de Cine Experimental de Madrid / Experimental Film Week of Madrid
Film Location: Madrid
-Edgar Neville
-Fernando Fernán-Gómez
-Carlos Saura
-Victor Erice
-Pedro Almodóvar
Auteur Melodrama / Melodrama de autor
-Reviews (Jamón, jamón (Bigas Luna, 1992), Todo sobre mi madre (Almodóvar, 1999), Cielo negro (Mur Oti, 1951), Caótica Ana (Medem, 2007), La vida mancha (Urbizu, 2003), My Life Without Me (Coixet, 2003), La ardilla roja (Medem, 1993), The Secret Life of Words (Coixet, 2005), Things I Never Told You (Coixet, 1996), Las voces de la noche (García Ruiz, 2003)).
Grotesque Comedy / Esperpento
-Reviews (Amanece, que no es poco (Cuerda, 1988), Atraco a las tres (Forqué, 1962), Belle epoque (Trueba, 1992), El verdugo (García Berlanga, 1963), El milagro de P Tinto (Fesser, 1998), La escopeta nacional (García Berlanga, 1978), Plácido (García Berlanga, 1961), La linea del cielo (Colomo, 1983), El extraño viaje (Fernán-Gómez, 1964), Los tramposos (Lazaga, 1959)).
Iberian Drama
-Reviews (Solas (Zambrano, 1999), Alas de mariposa (Bajo Ulloa, 1991), En la ciudad sin límites (Hernández, 2002), Flores del otro mundo (Bollaín, 1999), La casa de Bernarda Alba (Camus, 1987), La caza (Saura, 1965), Los lunes al sol (León de Aranoa, 2002), Poniente (Gutiérrez, 2002), La soledad (Rosales, 2007), Viridiana (Buñuel, 1961)).
Musical (But Not Only Flamenco...)
-Reviews (¡Ay, Carmela! (Saura, 1990), Morena clara (Rey, 1936), Flamenco (Saura, 1995), La niña de tus ojos (Trueba, 1998), Pena, penita, pena (Morayta, 1953), El otro lado de la cama (Martínez Lázaro, 2002), Shirley Temple Story (Padrós, 1976), Canciones para después de una guerra (Patino, 1976), Embrujo (Serrano de Osma, 1946)).
Period Films / De época
-Reviews (Alatriste (Díaz Yanes, 2006), Bocage (Leitão de Barros, 1936), Vacas (Medem, 1992), El perro del hortelano (Miró, 1996), Honor de cavalleria (Serra, 2006), Los últimos de Filipinas (Román, 1945), Locura de amor (Orduña, 1948), Nuestra Señora de Fátima (Gil, 1951), Sin novedad en el Alcázar (Genina, 1940), You Are the One (Una historia de entonces) (Garci, 2000)).
Dictatorship Forgotten Cinema
-Reviews (Un hombre va por el camino (Mur Oti, 1949), Carmen fra i rossi (Neville, 1939), Surcos (Nieves Conde, 1951), La vida en un hilo (Neville, 1945), Calle Mayor (Bardem, 1956), Marcelino pan y vino (Vajda, 1955), El clavo (Gil, 1944), Historias de la radio (Sáenz de Heredia, 1955), El espíritu de la colmena (Erice, 1973), Vida en sombras (Llobet Gracia, 1948)).
The Transition to Democracy Cinema / Cine de la Transición
-Reviews (El desencanto (Chávarri, 1976), El bosque animado (Cuerda, 1987), Los santos inocentes (Camus, 1984), La vieja memoria (Camino, 1979), Furtivos (Borau, 1975), Arrebato (Zulueta, 1979), Los restos del naufragio (Franco, 1978), 7 días de enero (Bardem, 1979), Habla, mudita (Gutiérrez Aragón, 1973), El viaje a ninguna parte (Fernán-Gómez, 1986)).
Crime and Thriller
-Reviews (Angustia (Bigas Luna, 1987), Bilbao (Bigas Luna, 1978), Domingo de carnaval (Neville, 1945), Muerte de un ciclista (Bardem, 1955), El cebo (Vajda, 1958), Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto (Díaz Yanes, 1995), Los peces rojos (Nieves Conde, 1955), Soldados de Salamina (Trueba, 2003), Tesis (Amenábar, 1996), Los cronocrímenes (Vigalondo, 2007)).
Fantasy and Horror
-Reviews (El día de la bestia (de la Iglesia, 1995), El espinazo del diablo (del Toro, 2001), La Residencia (Ibáñez Serrador, 1969), Acción mutante (de la Iglesia, 1993), El orfanato (Bayona, 2007), The Others (Amenábar, 2001), El laberinto del fauno (del Toro, 2006), La cabina (Mercero, 1972), [Rec] (Balagueró and Plaza, 2007), La torre de los siete jorobados (Neville, 1944)).
Experimental Documentary
-Reviews (El cant dels ocells (Serra, 2008), Contactos (Viota, 1970), El sol del membrillo (Erice, 1992), En la ciudad (Gay, 2003), Las Hurdes. Tierra sin pan (Buñuel, 1933), Die stille vor Bach (Portabella, 2007), Tren de sombras: El espectro de Le Thuit (Guerín, 1997), Umbracle (Portabella, 1972), Un chien andalou (Buñuel, 1929), Aguaespejo granadino (Val de Omar, 1953-1955)).
Recommended Reading
Spanish Cinema Online
Notes on Contributors

The book has been added to the Books on Spanish Cinema, Part Two post.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Random Viewing

Clockwise from top left: Los lunes al sol / Mondays in the Sun (Fernando León de Aranoa, 2002), Una palabra tuya / One Word From You (Ángeles González-Sinde, 2009), Todos estamos invitados / We're All Invited (Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, 2008), Poniente (Chus Gutierrez, 2002).

I've watched Los lunes al sol several times previously but decided to rewatch it because while watching Biutiful a few weeks ago León de Aranoa's film kept popping into my head. They are quite different films but I think the 'connection' that I was feeling stems from Javier Bardem's performances in the two films -I can't quite articulate what I mean just yet (it's along the lines of his performance in Biutiful feeling to me like that of Los lunes al sol, but turned inside out in relation to how the strength and fragilities of the respective characters are shown), but I'm working on a post about the two films together (which will hopefully appear before the end of the month, work schedule permitting). I didn't know much about Una palabra tuya, apart from the fact that I like the actors in it (Antonio de la Torre, Malena Alterio, and Esperanza Pedreño). I found it a bit uneven tonally -it's tragicomic but turns a bit hysterical towards the end- but it is nonetheless an affecting portrayal of loneliness and (female) friendship; it is overall quite sad, but it ends on a hopeful note. Todos estamos invitados has an intriguing plot set in the Basque Country -after being shot in the head, a young terrorist (Josu -Óscar Jaenada) is left with amnesia and a battle for control over him commences between his old associates and the doctor (Vanessa Incontrada) who is caring for him. At the same time the doctor's partner (José Coronado), a university lecturer who has openly criticised ETA, receives a serious death threat as a result of his refusal to stay quiet. On the one hand, there's a nature versus nurture aspect to the story as Josu's former associates attempt to manipulate him and reform him into the person they knew before, while he also has the opportunity of a clean slate (he remembers nothing of his life) and responds to the kindnesses of the doctor. At the same time, the film is also about fear and silences, and how fear and intimidation cause silence. I haven't seen anything else that views the situation in quite the same way -so well worth checking out. I continued with another film starring José Coronado (and why not), Poniente -a rural drama about immigration (migrant workers and the worth of their work) and the insularity of small communities, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, seen through the eyes of Lucía (Cuca Escribano), a teacher who returns to her home town when her father dies and decides to take over his business.