Sunday, 29 April 2012

Random Viewing

Crebinsky (Enrique Otero, 2011), La torre de los siete jorobados / The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks (Edgar Neville, 1944).

   Crebinsky was on my list of films from last year that I wanted to catch up with, having heard positive things about it as it played at film festivals. It is the story of two brothers (played by Miguel de Lira and Sergio Zerraeta) who as children are washed away from their village during a flash flood (seen in an animated prologue to the film proper) and who now live along the coastline with their cow, Mushka. This is the 1940s but they are oblivious to world events unfolding around them (and out at sea -Luis Tosar plays an American submarine commander) and when a Nazi pilot crash lands onto their beach, they are more interested in his boots and a nice flashing red light than concerned as to who he is. This sets in motion a 'plot' whereby the brothers wander around looking for the wilful Mushka whilst unwittingly being pursued by Nazis looking for their missing pilot (the flashing red light is a tracking device). The film is most often compared to the work of Jean Pierre Jeunet and it does have some traits in common with his films (for example, the semi-muteness and innocence of the protagonists, and a level of gurning that suggests that Dominique Pinon might be giving lessons) but visually it is quite different to Jeunet's distinctive style. That said, I think that director Enrique Otero might share a key inspiration with Jeunet, most notably evidenced through their shared delight in contraptions: namely the illustrator / inventor Heath Robinson. At least, that is the connection that these English eyes saw. The film has an enjoyable line in absurd humour and overall I'd recommend it.
    With the second film I have to start with an admission of ignorance. Until very recently I'd never heard of Edgar Neville, never mind seen any of his films -but he was a key figure in the Spanish cinema of his era, with many of his films regarded as classics. La torre de los siete jorobados is described on Filmin's website as 'the first Spanish cult movie' and one of the classics of fantasy cinema. A young (and somewhat naive) man, Basilio, receives a tip-off at the roulette table from a mysterious, eye-patched man, and wins a lot of money. The man with the eyepatch (who nobody else seems to see) turns out to be Professor Robinson de Mantua, an archeologist murdered exactly one year ago: he is a ghost. He has returned because he needs help to protect his niece from the men who murdered him. Basilio agrees to help. What follows is an atmospheric tale of derring-do, ghosts, secret codes, and subterranean lairs (some of the set design is awesome). And hunchbacks. Lots of them. I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Another Book Added

Torres Hortelano, L. J. (ed) (2012) - World Film Locations: Madrid, Bristol: Intellect Books. ISBN: 9781841505688.

'When a book on cinema is launched, the first thing that one might try to do is figure out exactly what type of book it is. The book may be aimed at cinephiles, academic scholars or even those who just love to talk about movies. The World Film Locations series does not fit comfortably into any of those categories. What readers will find are the myths and the facts that explain what cinema is today through the representation of the city. We can see what remains today from the early twentieth up to the twenty-first century, and also what cinema has become. Movies are one of the most powerful cultural means of expression and catalyst for society. This series focuses on the representation of an area that was born alongside cinema: the city.' (p.5)

   Part cinematic appreciation, part travel guide, this book is effectively a love letter to Madrid and its various onscreen incarnations. It brings together seven bite-sized essays on various aspects of Madrid's representation(s) on film with an examination of forty-four scenes from different films. The introduction states that the 'criterion for the selection of films is not so much the length of footage that is dedicated to the city [...] but the importance of the scenarios, buildings or monuments in the narrative of the film, as well as the intrinsic role of the city of Madrid to the film as a whole' (p.5). The scenes are arranged throughout the book in chronological order (dating from 1912 to 2009), so we get a sense of change over time not just in terms of how the city has been utilised onscreen but also how the city itself has evolved. Each 'set' of scenes includes a map with the locations marked on it, and the two pages that each film receives include stills from the scene in question as well as photographs of the locations as they are today. The discussion of each scene is only a paragraph long but that's enough in most cases to give you a taste of the film and how the scene and its use of the city fit within the film overall. Having felt that Intellect's Directory of World Cinema: Spain was a bit light on a particular high-profile director, I was pleased to see that several of his films appear in this volume: a consideration of Madrid as a cinematic city would be seriously lacking if it did not give Pedro Almodóvar a certain prominence. But there are a range of films and directors included, including non-Spanish films that have sequences set in Madrid. Overall, I felt that the bite-sized essays take some interesting angles on the book's theme, and the scene discussions serve as a good taster for the films (there are certainly some that I haven't seen, but will now try to track down). Recommended.
I will add the title to the Books on Spanish Cinema, Part Two post. The list of contents (including film titles) is below.

Madrid: City of the Imagination -Lorenzo J. Torres Hortelano
Scenes 1-8 (1912-1951):
Asesinato y entierro de Don José de Canalejas / The Assassination and Burial of Don José de Canalejas (Enrique Blanco and Adelardo Fernández Arias, 1912), El sexto sentido / The Sixth Sense (Nemesio Sobrevilla, 1929), La verbena de la paloma / Fair of the Dove (Benito Perojo, 1935), La torre de los siete jorobados / Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks (Edgar Neville, 1943), Domingo de carnaval / Sunday Carnival (Edgar Neville, 1945), Siempre vuelven de madrugada / They Always Come at Dawn (Jerónimo Mihura, 1948), El último caballo / The Last Horse (Edgar Neville, 1950), Surcos / Furrows (José Antonio Nieves Conde, 1951).
Madrid in Motion: Squares, Corralas, Markets, Verbenas -José Luis Castro de Paz and José Ramón Garitaonaindía de Vera
Scenes 9-16 (1955-1965):
Muerte de un ciclista / Death of a Cyclist (Juan Antonio Bardem, 1955), El inquilino / The Tenant (José Antonio Nieves Conde, 1957), El pisito / The Little Apartment (Marco Ferreri, 1958), El cochecito / The Little Car (Marco Ferreri, 1960), The Happy Thieves (George Marshall, 1961), La gran familia / The Great Family (Fernando Palacios, 1962), El mundo sigue / Life Goes On (Fernando Fernán-Gómez, 1963), Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 1965).
Iván Zulueta: Films of Madrid's Underground -Steven Marsh
Scenes 17-24 (1967-1984):
La busca / The Search (Angelino Fons, 1967), Cría cuervos / Raise Ravens (Carlos Saura, 1976), Elisa, vida mía / Elisa, My Life (Carlos Saura, 1977), Ese oscuro objeto de deseo / That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Buñuel, 1977), Asignatura pendiente / Unfinished Business (José Luis Garci, 1977), Maravillas (Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, 1980), Las bicicletas son para el verano / Bicycles Are For the Summer (Jaime Chávarri, 1984), ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! / What Have I Done to Deserve This? (Pedro Almodóvar, 1984).
Embracing Normalcy: Madrid Gay Cinema at the Turn of the New Millennium -Helio San Miguel
Scenes 25-32 (1987-1997):
La ley del deso / Law of Desire (Pedro Almodóvar, 1987), Siesta (Mary Lambert, 1987), ¡Atame! / Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Pedro Almodóvar, 1990), El día de la bestia / Day of the Beast (Álex de la Iglesia, 1995), La flor de mi secreto / The Flower of My Secret (Pedro Almodóvar, 1995), Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto / Nobody Will Speak of Us When We Are Dead (Agustín Díaz Yanes, 1995), Tesis / Thesis (Alejandro Amenábar, 1996), Barrio / Neighbourhood (Fernando León de Aranoa, 1997).
Madrid: Unexpected Dream Factory -Helio San Miguel
Scenes 33-38 (1997-2002):
La buena estrella / Lucky Star (Ricardo Franco, 1997), Abre los ojos / Open Your Eyes (Alejandro Amenábar, 1997), Segunda piel / Second Skin (Gerardo Vera, 1999), El corazón del guerrero / Heart of the Warrior (Daniel Monzón, 2000), Lucía y el sexo / Sex and Lucía (Julio Medem, 2000), Hable con ella / Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002).
Beyond the Cliché: Madrid in Twenty-First Century American Thrillers -John D Sanderson
Scenes 39-44 (2003-2009):
Noviembre / November (Achero Mañas, 2003), Camarón (Jaime Chávarri, 2005), The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007), Deception (Marcel Langenegger, 2008), Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar, 2009), The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009).
Bright Young Things: Neo-existentialism in Madrid Cinema of the 1990s -Rafael Gómez Alonso
Contributor Bios

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Random Viewing

El crack (José Luis Garci, 1981), Arrugas / Wrinkles (Ignacio Ferreras, 2011)

   El crack is a noirish detective story (it opens with a dedication to Dashiell Hammett) set in then-present day Madrid. It has a relatively straightforward plot (and one scene that made me jump), as Alfredo Landa's sad-eyed private detective investigates the disappearance of a businessman's daughter and quickly finds that powerful people don't want him sticking his nose into the affair. Landa is the main reason for watching the film -up until this point he was known as a comedic actor, and so closely associated with a certain style of comedy film that a genre was named after him (landismo)- but here he shows a darker side. It was the beginning of a different stage of his career; a few years later he would win the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance in Los santos innocentes / The Holy Innocents (Mario Camus, 1984) (shared with his co-star Francisco Rabal). The film has a sequel (the imaginatively-titled El crack 2), which I will endeavour to catch up with in the future.
   Arrugas won two Goya awards this year -Best Animated Film and Best Adapted Screenplay (the first time an animated film had won that category)- and also saw rave reviews after it was shown at San Sebastian last year (Peter Bradshaw uploaded a twitvid review calling it the ‘best film at San Sebastian’). Based on the comic book by Paco Roca, Arrugas follows the goings-on in an old people's home from the perspective of newcomer Emilio (voiced by Tacho González) and later that of his roommate, Miguel (Álvaro Guevara). The film manages to be moving, funny, sad (I cried) and, above all, sincere. A man's descent into Alzheimer's is not an expected subject for an animated film, but it works. I think in part because animation can lend itself to certain surreal touches / representations that might not have worked in a live action scenario (for example, as Emilio is introduced to other 'inmates', he turns back into a child reliving his first day at school, or perhaps a better example is the woman who spends her day gazing out of the window, convinced that she is on the Orient Express -her room turns into a lavish train compartment when seen through her eyes), but mainly because the characters are so believably human and the relationships between them ring true. Recommended.

Further reading:
Caparrós Lera, J.M. (2005) – La Pantalla Popular: El cine español durante el Gobierno de la derecha (1996-2003), Madrid: Ediciones Akal, S.A.
-has a chapter on José Luis Garci.
Jordan, B. and M. Allinson (2005) – Spanish Cinema: A student’s guide, London: Hodder Arnold
-Alfredo Landa is one of their case studies in their chapter on Spanish stars.
Mira, A. (2010) -The A-Z of Spanish Cinema, Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
-has entries for both Garci and Landa.

Miguel, Antonia (Mabel Rivera), and Emilio enact their great escape in Arrugas

Monday, 2 April 2012

Festival Round-Up

    The London Spanish Film Festival hosts their second Spring Weekend between 20th -22nd April (the festival proper takes place in September). You can view the full programme here. Highlights include Arrugas / Wrinkles (Ignacio Ferreras, 2011) (which will feature in my next Random Viewing post because it is currently available at Filmin) and three of the films that either feature on my list of films to catch up with from last year / forthcoming this year  –Cinco metros cuadrados / Five Square Metres (Max Lemke, 2011), La chispa de la vida / As Luck Would Have It (Álex de la Iglesia, 2012), and Las Olas (Alberto Morais, 2012).
   In the virtual world, there are two film festivals that are either underway, or about to start. First is, the first online festival of Iberamerican cinema. The downside is that although the films are free if you are registered with Filmotech, they are restricted to viewers residing in countries classed as Iberamerican (so no viewing in the UK). But among the highlights of the fourteen films included is La mitad de Óscar (Manuel Martín Cuenca, 2011), which was one of my top five films last year –so well worth checking out if you are eligible for access.
    Meanwhile, Filmin is about to start their second Atlántida Film Fest, running between 4th April - 4th May. You can download a pdf of the festival brochure, detailing the films included and the prices, here. There are several intriguing-looking titles, including yet another from my list of films from last year that I wanted to track downCrebinsky (Enrique Otero, 2011).