Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Carlos Saura Challenge, Part 1: Llanto por un bandido / Lament for a Bandit (1964)

Director: Carlos Saura
Screenplay: Carlos Saura and Mario Camus
Cast: Francisco Rabal, Lea Massari, Lino Ventura, Philippe Leroy, Manuel Zarzo, Agustín González, Fernando Sánchez Polack
Synopsis: 19th century Spain. The Spanish people have expelled the French but now have to deal with the unjust Fernando VII in their stead. Rabal plays José María, a.k.a. 'El Tempranillo', leader of a group of bandits who garner a Robin Hood-like reputation in robbing only the rich, dealing fairly with normal people, and their continuing defiance of the King.

So begins the 'Carlos Saura Challenge'. This is not his first feature-length film, but Los golfos / The Delinquents (1962) is unavailable in any format, so this is where I start. The reception of Los golfos (the script had been banned by the censors four times) had demonstrated that depicting the here-and-now in Spain was a sensitive issue, and Jean-Claude Seguin suggests that with Llanto por un bandido Saura was attempting to escape from Spanish reality:
"It was for the director to reinstate the figure of the bandit José María 'El Tempranillo' who, when in contact with a fugitive liberal, Pedro Sanchez, acquires a certain political consciousness and chooses the Constitutionalists. Behind this historical film comes a discourse on the need for ideological commitment which, in Spain, was a courageous stand." (2011: 54)
However he clearly had not travelled far enough from reality as the film was heavily cut by the censors, in particular the opening sequence where Saura pointedly uses playwright Antonio Buero Vallejo (who used symbolism in his own work to criticise the Franco government) as a town-crier, announcing a verdict/judgement to the town square while Luis Buñuel cameos as an executioner preparing to execute the condemned men by garrotting - the sequence has been cut so heavily that I thought that the DVD was skipping. It was this treatment of his work that led Saura to utilise metaphors and parables in the films that followed. (side note: here is an interesting interview with Saura about the influence of Buñuel)
Overall, aside from the impetus to be more oblique in presenting a view that might be considered politically 'problematic' by the regime, the elements that seem to me to be significant in terms of Saura's later work are: the allusion to Goya and his Duelo a garrotazos / Fight with Cudgels in the fight sequence between Rabal and Lino Ventura (below) where, buried up to their knees, they batter each other with branches; and also what is already quite a distinctive use of music (certain sequences appear to either be cut to the music, or the actions within the sequence -for example, the blows Rabal rains down on Ventura- are timed to fit the rhythm of the music, which is often diagetic, i.e. we see it being performed onscreen).

Seguin, Jean-Claude (2011) - 'Carlos Saura', in Directory of World Cinema: Spain, edited by Lorenzo J. Torres Hortelano, Bristol: Intellect, pp. 53-56.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Los Goya 2013: winners

    The premios Goya (The Goya Awards) 2013 took place last night, with Blancanieves coming away with 10 wins out of their 18 nominations (including Best Film) and Lo imposible [The Impossible] taking home 5 (out of their 14 – including Best Director), while other frontrunner Grupo 7 (18 nominations) took a clutch of acting prizes but El artista y la modelo (13 nominations) came away empty-handed. The complete lists of winners can be found on the official Goya website but the main categories are as follows:

Best Film

Best Director
Juan Antonio Bayona - Lo imposible

Best New Director
Enrique Gato - Las aventuras de Tadeo Jones

Best Original Screenplay
Pablo Berger - Blancanieves

Best Adapted Screenplay
Javier Barreira, Gorka Magallón, Ignacio del Moral, Jordi Gasull, Neil Landau - Las aventuras de Tadeo Jones

Best Actor
José Sacristán - El muerto y ser feliz

Best Actress
Maribel Verdú - Blancanieves

Best Supporting Actor
Julián Villagrán - Grupo 7

Best Supporting Actress
Candela Peña - Una pistola en cada mano

Best Male Newcomer
Joaquín Núñez - Grupo 7

Best Female Newcomer
Macarena García - Blancanieves

I watched the first couple of hours of the ceremony live online and caught up with the rest of the results this morning. Overall, there was a fairly combative stance in the face of the IVA rise and the Spanish government’s economic policy more generally (with the most personal of the criticisms of social cuts –of the speeches that I’ve seen so far– in Candela Peña’s acceptance speech, and the most elegantly-stated in Maribel Verdú’s). Otherwise los Goya 2013 were notable for splitting the Director and Film categories (they are usually won by the same film) and for giving José Sacristán his first Goya (from his first ever nomination). El País has a round-up of the show (including video footage of highlights) and Fotogramas has photos of everything from the red carpet to the after show party.

Monday, 11 February 2013

¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival 2013

The 19th ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival is due to take place in Manchester between 8th - 24th March and the tickets go on general sale this coming Friday. You can download the full programme of films and events here, or go to their website for bookings information.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Carlos Saura Challenge

   I mentioned a while back that I was considering dedicating a month on the blog to Carlos Saura (in the style of my 'Almodóvar Month' back in August 2011), but I've decided that that's not feasible because of the number of films (38) in his filmography. So instead I'm going to set myself a 'Carlos Saura Challenge': in the next calendar year (i.e. February 2013 - January 2014) I will attempt to watch all those of his films that are available either on DVD or VOD. This should build up to the arrival of his next film - Guernica, 33 días - which goes into production this year (although there is no set release date for it yet). I think I have now tracked down as many as possible of the films (30, at the last count [not all of them are in the above photo]- it's taken more than six months and some are missing because their apparent rarity makes them too expensive, while others are only available as VOD), although there are still some omissions (indicated below -I've also noted which ones are available as VOD). As I said in a Not-Entirely-Random Viewing post last year, I'm not particularly confident writing about his dance / music films because of my ignorance of those elements, but they are an integral part of his career, so I will have to work out how to write about them as I go along. My intention is that, like Almodóvar Month, each film will have a (relatively short) individual post, with longer posts appearing at intervals (further into the year). The full list of films is below and future posts will be tagged 'Carlos Saura Challenge' so that they can be found together. As usual any English titles in square brackets are my own translation (otherwise the title shown is the official English language title). The dates given refer to the Spanish theatrical release.

38. Guernica, 33 días / Guernica, 33 Days (in pre-production)
37. Flamenco, Flamenco (2010) VOD
36. Io, Don Giovanni / I, Don Giovanni (2010)
35. Fados (2007)
34. Iberia (2005) VOD
33. El séptimo día / The Seventh Day (2004)
32. Salomé (2002)
31. Buñuel y la mesa del rey Salomón / Buñuel and King Solomon's Table (2001)
30. Goya en Burdeos / Goya in Bordeaux (1999)
29. Tango (1998)
28. Pajarico / [Little Bird] (1997)
27. Taxi (1996)
26. Flamenco (1995)
25. ¡Dispara! / Outrage (1993)
24. Sevillanas (1992) [unable to get a copy]
23. ¡Ay, Carmela! (1990)
22. La noche oscura / [The Dark Night] (1989)
21. El Dorado (1988) [unavailable]
20. El amor brujo (1986)
19. Los zancos / [The Stilts] (1984) [unavailable]
18. Carmen (1983)
17. Antonieta (1982) [only available on R1]
16. Dulces horas / [Sweet Hours] (1982) VOD
15. Bodas de sangre / Blood Wedding (1981)
14. Deprisa, deprisa / Faster, Faster (1981)
13. Mamá cumple 100 años / [Mama Turns 100] (1979) VOD
12. Los ojos vendados / Blindfolded Eyes (1978) VOD
11. Elisa, vida mía / Elisa, My Life (1977) VOD
10. Cría cuervos / Raise Ravens (1976) VOD
09. La prima Ángelica / Cousin Angelica (1974) VOD
08. Ana y los lobos / Ana and the Wolves (1973) VOD
07. El jardin de las delicias / The Garden of Delights (1970)
06. La madriguera / Honeycomb (1969) [not available]
05. Stress-es-tres-tres / Stress is Three (1968) [not available]
04. Peppermint frappé (1967) VOD
03. La caza / The Hunt (1966)
02. Llanto por un bandido / Lament for a Bandit (1964)
01. Los golfos / The Delinquents (1962) [unavailable]

So we'll see how I go - I may have bitten off more than I can chew as I'll find it difficult to work through that many films (while also trying to watch other ones as well, and, y'know, having a job), not to mention the fact that the majority of the DVDs I have acquired do not have English subtitles. If anyone wants to jump in with a take on any of the films, you would be more than welcome, either here or I can link to your own blogs. Cría cuervos is released on DVD in the UK in May, so maybe some folks would be interested in that? Likewise, Bodas de sangre, Carmen, and El amor brujo had DVD releases last year. The others are admittedly more difficult to get hold of (plus the subtitles issue). Let me know -either in the comments or on twitter.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Two Years Old

This is just a short post to point out that the blog turns two today. Woo-hoo!
   The second year of Nobody Knows Anybody has not been as prolific as its first (mainly due to varying work patterns and commitments), but hopefully the quality has remained, and I'm glad that I've stuck with it. I mentioned in last year's birthday post that the main aim of writing the blog has been for me to kickstart my brain, and that continues. Last year I had some ideas that I was thinking through - they have been put to one side because I completely lost my train of thought when the opportunity of more (paid) hours meant that my research ground to a halt. But I have started to develop a couple of other (different) ideas and took the plunge in submitting an abstract for a conference.....and it was accepted! So now I just need to write the bloody thing! I'll post something about it nearer the time (the conference is in June) and will probably post the paper on here afterwards. I've also got another idea, relating to a particular actor's performances in two films, but that's on the back-burner for the moment until I've got a proper draft of the conference paper. So that's the progress in terms of my brain!
   As I move into the third year of the blog, I'm setting myself a year-long challenge to give a bit more structure to proceedings - a post about that will appear shortly. Other than that, I'll continue in the same vein, although I'd also like to figure out how to write about work in progress without feeling that I'm putting half-thought-out ideas on display. I think that more 'Not-Entirely-Random Viewing' posts might be the answer to that. Posting will continue to be irregular for the foreseeable future, but I'll try to stop mentioning that as I think that as long as I keep going, that side of things doesn't matter too much.
   Anyway, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more cinematic discoveries this year.