Thursday, 16 August 2012

Not-Entirely-Random Viewing: Carlos Saura edition

Clockwise from top left: Sevillanas (1992), Flamenco (1995),  Iberia (2005), Fados (2007).

    I mentioned a few posts back that I'm considering doing another month-long project on a Spanish filmmaker, in the way that I did 'Almodóvar Month' last August. Saura is the filmmaker I'm considering writing about, mainly because I've realised that I've seen surprisingly few of his films. Is say 'surprisingly' because of the longevity of his career (he directed his first feature, Los golfos / The Delinquents, in 1960 and has now directed more than forty or so films to date), a number of his films are considered key works in Spanish cinema (most notably La caza / The Hunt (1966) and Cría cuervos / Raise Ravens (1976)), and also because he is one of the few Spanish directors whose name has some sort of cachet outside of Spain. Despite the fact that a lot of his films were reissued on DVD only a few years ago, they are now difficult to come by and a significant number are simply unavailable (strangely (to my mind, at least) this includes two films he made with Antonio Banderas). Looking at the availability of DVDs and titles that are currently supported by VOD platforms (quite a few of Saura's films are available at Filmotech), I think I can get access to around 26 of his films -I am slowly acquiring the DVDs that are available at a reasonable price (I recently broke my own rule about how much one should pay for a DVD and ended up getting burnt by what appears to be a counterfeit in the process -lesson learned), so we'll see how I go. His films will probably continue to appear in the Random Viewing thread until I make up my mind as to whether or not to make a project of it or not -I may hold off and do some sort of retrospective when his next film, 33 días / 33 Days (about Picasso (Antonio Banderas) and the painting of Guernica), gets released. The number of his films that revolve around music and dance is also a bit off-putting for me, given how little I know about those elements. But they are integral to his career as a filmmaker, so I'll have to give that some thought as well.
Ordinarily, if I'm planning some sort of retrospective, I work through the films chronologically. But while looking for trailers of the films (to give me some sort of idea of them) on youtube, I discovered that Sevillanas (1992) and Flamenco (1995) were on there in their entirety; as they're both currently OOP, I decided to watch them first before they disappeared. Iberia (2005) is available at Filmin and I bought Fados (2007) on DVD from Having watched Flamenco Flamenco (2010) last year I knew what to expect in terms of format, but one can also see a progression in terms of filming style across these four films.
    Although each varies in emphasis in terms of the balance between dance and song / music, performance is centre stage; there is no 'narrative' as such in these films, but rather a series of performances that hang together as a cohesive whole due to their shared roots. All four films take place in cavernous, warehouse-like spaces that are divided up with screens and mirrors. The screens change between being opaque and transparent, either through use of lighting or the projection of images, creating a play of shadows and / or silhouettes, light and colour, or sometimes a trompe l'oeil effect, depending on the atmosphere required by the particular performance being showcased (the trailers for Iberia and Fados show this more clearly than I am able to describe). When the projection of images onto the screens include the dancers actually performing in the sequence, a kaleidoscope-like effect of duplication and mirroring takes place, often disappearing into infinity on the screen. Likewise, there are also some The Lady from Shanghai-esque effects using the mirrors. Obviously sound is also important but I feel under-qualified to discuss that side of it -although it is a shame that the soundtracks don't seem to be readily available here as some of the music is of a goosebump-inducing quality. In Flamenco Flamenco Saura names the performers (and the title of the song / performance) in a subtitle at the start of each sequence, but in these earlier films we just get the titles -although I recognised some of the names in the opening credits, I generally had to wait until the closing credits to work out who sang / danced what.
I don't really have anything else to say about these films at the moment, but if I take on the project, I'll revisit them (and do some research).

   The blog will be quiet for the next couple of weeks, but once we get into September my work situation will revert back to what it was this time last year and I should be able to start posting more regularly again and with a bit more variety in content.