Thursday, 19 July 2012

More Random Viewing

Promoción fantasma / Ghost Graduation (Javier Ruíz Caldera, 2012), Pablo G. del Amo: Un montador de ilusiones / Pablo G. del Amo: An editor of dreams (Diego Galán, 2005).

    This is probably the most random combination of films I've written about so far. Promoción fantasma is a paranormal comedy with a distinctly 80s feel to it (think The Goonies meets The Breakfast Club, with a bit of Ghostbusters thrown in for good measure). Modesto (Raúl Arévalo) is a teacher who sees ghosts. All the time. Searching for another new job, he is hired by Alexandra Jiménez's headteacher, Tina, to a school with a history of strange goings-on, and unexplained incidents that are becoming increasingly violent and disruptive. The source of the disruption are five teenagers (Javier Bódalo, Anna Castillo, Andrea Duro, Alex Maruny, and Jaime Olías) who died in a fire at the school (while they were in detention during the end of year party) twenty years ago, and who are increasingly frustrated that they are stuck within the school grounds. Informed that ghosts cannot pass over into the afterlife if they have an unresolved problem, Modesto thinks he knows what their collective issue is: they need to graduate. So he sets about trying to teach them, but it isn't that simple... Yes, it's corny, it's crude, and Carlos Areces (here playing the self-appointed head of the school's Parent Association) once again bares his backside onscreen, but it has a lot of heart and I found it (admittedly, childishly) funny. Raúl Arévalo is one of those actors who can switch between comedy and pathos in the blink of an eye and for me his name is already a signal that a film is worth watching. Expect a more in-depth post on his films later in the year. I've also really liked Alexandra Jiménez in three films I've seen her in -she is another one to watch out for.
     Pablo G. del Amo: Un montador de ilusiones is a documentary about the editor who was one of the key figures in Spanish cinema for more than a 40 years. Editors generally receive very little attention, but as is mentioned within the film, an editor can make the difference between a good or mediocre film. What becomes clear as director after director lines up to sing his praises (he edited films for Victor Erice, Carlos Saura, and Fernando Fernán Gómez, among many others -including key titles such as El espiritú de la colmena / The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973) and La caza / The Hunt (Carlos Saura, 1965)), is that Pablo G. del Amo was the editor to work with for Spanish filmmakers of several generations. What marked him out was his preparation (he read the scripts, which apparently wasn't usual), his meticulousness and organisation in the editing room, the thought that he put into a cut (he didn't just think about the scene but also how it fitted into the film as a whole and what it was supposed to 'say'), and his willingness to argue his case (more than one of the directors interviewed recalls being instructed by him to reshoot a scene, and where to put the camera for the reshoot -they duly complied). The other element that marked his life was the four years he spent in prison during the Franco regime for being a member of the Communist Party. When he was released, he was unable to get work in Spain as he had been blacklisted, so he moved to exile in Portugal (at that time also a dictatorship) where he participated in what would come to be considered a 'new wave' of Portuguese cinema. After prison he became disillusioned with the Party (or at least fellow members thereof) but remained a man of convictions who was widely admired by those he worked with, not only for his abilities as an editor, but also as someone who stood up for what he believed in (in a variety of contexts). The documentary is only just over an hour, but is fascinating viewing and well worth seeking out if you get the opportunity (the DVD available in Spain has optional English subtitles).