996 (131). Plácido (1961, Luis Garcia Berlanga)

Screened January 30 2010 on .avi downloaded from the website that dare not speak its name in Brooklyn, NY TSPDT rank #763  IMDb Wiki

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As with my previous entry on Douce, the only print of this film that I could access has no subtitles. My original plan was to enlist a Spanish-speaking friend to watch it with me and offer live translation. But having watched the film, I wouldn't wish to force anyone to help me through the muy rapido Spanish dialogue. Just listening to it recalls the breathless banter of 30s screwball.

The online synopses I could find (most of them posted after the break) offer only cursory summaries of the plot, leaving much of what transpired onscreen lost to me. So much the better to appreciate the film's cinematic qualities.  As I mentioned, the film's spitfire dialogue recalls the comedies of Capra and Hawks; some associate the film's Christmas setting and main plot (a guy desperately trying to save his livelihood after the bank calls in his loan) to Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Others connect the film's subplot about the rich townspeople's bogus, self-serving acts of charity towards poor people during Christmas with that other great Spanish film of 1961, Bunuel's Viridiana. But the film's satirical depiction of people engaged in a manic farce while hosting out-of-town visitors had me thinking of another great comedy of the same year, Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three.

Watching the film, despite feeling that the film moved at a brisk clip thanks to the speedy dialogue, I began to notice how long the takes were, with many shots lasting over a minute or more. I went back from the beginning and counted no less than 25 shots, each lasting one-to-three minutes long, which altogether account for over a third of the film's 80 minute running time (title credit sequence not counted). There are roughly an additional 17 shots lasting 30-59 seconds. Overall, there are a total of 158 shots in 80 minutes, averaging 30 seconds a shot.

Why does Berlanga rely so much on long takes? On the practical side, it's simpler, faster and more economical to set up a single master take than to do multiple camera set-ups for a given scene. But Berlanga is no slouch. Just watch this one-take scene. Clocking in at almost 3 minutes, it's one of the longest shots in the film. Try to figure out how many actors are in the scene, and how many camera positions he's able to achieve in one take:

By my count I have a dozen characters, and about half a dozen unique looks at this one room. Berlanga is very resourceful, relying on what I think is a single dolly track to roll the camera up and down the room , rotating the camera horizontally so that it captures a total of about 120 degrees of the room over the course of the scene.  But perhaps what's most impressive is his staging of actors in several different configurations so that there's an exceptionally dynamic sense of dramatic movement as well as shifting social dynamics from start to finish. Masterful use of foreground and background, not to mention lateral movement, to emphasize contrasts between divisions of people within a single room.

Believe it or not, this scene is preceded by a one-shot scene lasting 80 seconds, and followed by another one-shot scene lasting three and a half minutes. This dynamically staged long-take technique pretty much dominates the middle stretch of the film, where in one scene after another, people are thrown into different, contentious combinations, their fortunes and emotional states apparently in constant flux.

But Berlanga is no one-trick/ long-take pony. In other scenes, he'll incorporate flash cutaways lasting just a second or two. There are a couple of sequences that use this technique liberally: the arrival of the charity benefactors at the town's train station; and a charity auction where a man appears to be pressured to bid for something he doesn't want to save face. Interestingly, both of these scenes amount to public ceremonies, as if to suggest that they elicit heightened states of excitement and anxiety.

Berlanga's filmmaking was already quite deft 10 years earlier when he made Bienvenido, Mister Marshall!, employing freeze frames, fast motion and other comic editing tricks at a level on par with Preston Sturges. But his handling of dialogue scenes catered more to conventional Hollywood decoupage techniques. Compare what goes on in the above clip from Placido with how the following stills, captured from one scene in Bienvenido Mister Marshall!, cuts from master shot to individual close ups before returning to the master:

As another point of comparison to Berlanga's shooting and in-camera editing technique, I pulled up Wilder's aforementioned One, Two Three and played through the first half of the film, as well as the famous extended climactic sequence whose energy and incredible use of interior spaces to move action along is worthy of comparison to those in Placido. Scanning through about 80 minutes of footage, only once did I find a shot that lasted more than one minute. Here's a representative capture from that sequence:

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Even though the pacing is manic, the space isn't nearly as compressed as the interiors in Placido. This film is set in large modern office spaces whose expanse suits a wide Scope frame.  Some of the energy is conveyed from a host of characters rushing in and out of Cagney's office with their crises of the moment, with Cagney riding the eye of the storm.  For the most part the The film employs an arsenal of shots at different lengths (wide/ medium / close-up), tracking shots, shot/ reverse-shot dialogues, woven seamlessly and coherently even as it conveys the chaos at hand.

Interestingly, despite an ensemble of over a dozen characters interacting with Cagney over the course of this sustained climactic act, there are hardly ever more than two or three characters engaged with him at a given moment, which allows for Wilder to parse the manic activity he's concocted into a coherent stream. Compare this to the above shot in Placido, where a dozen characters appear in one shot and alternate in their interactions, no one of them dominating the proceedings.

Wilder's approach creates a more adversarial feeling between characters, setting up clear oppositional dynamics, mostly between James Cagney's blow-hard Coke executive and everyone around him, with whom he dispatches one at a time. Berlanga's technique of shooting dialogue scenes emphasizes more of a holistic social environment. Even as people contend with each other inside the frame, the camera acts as a needle to weave them together into a tapestry of comic dysfunction.

Interestingly, Berlanga's film El Verdugo, made two years after Placido, employs a widescreen camera approaching the Scope compositions of One, Two, Three. While Berlanga largely retains the use of long takes often exceeding a minute, instead of compressed compositions of people, he more frequently exploits the wide screen to emphasize distances between people, especially with the main characters, who are undertakers, and thus relatively ostracized within society:

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Thinking further on my account of Berlanga's work in Placido, I'm now curious to compare his approach to ensemble scene-making to that of perhaps the most famous American ensemblist, Robert Altman. I don't seem to have a DVD of Nashville or Short Cuts on me (!), but I would wager that even Altman doesn't let his shots go as long or involve as sophisticated blocking as you see with Berlanga. Altman, a TV director, relied on multi-camera setups that he could use to cut from shot to shot, always looking for a shot to materialize (as in a sports event) rather than constructing it through blocking and framing.

Speaking of sports, I was playing with this sports analogy: that Wilder shoots dialogue like a lightweight boxer, dancing quickly across the canvas of his wide shots before settling into a series of shot/reverse shot flurries; while Berlanga is more akin to a heavyweight, lumbering steadily across the canvas, pushing you around the ring. Not sure how well this holds up, but it gives me an excuse to put up this clip:

Finally, I would like to say that I think enough of this film after one impaired viewing that I'd like to see it again with subtitles. I'm hoping someone might come through and offer timed fansubs. In fact, I'm willing to offer $140 US (which translates to about 100 Euros) to the first person who can provide timed fansubs for this film.

To take part in the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge, all you need is a copy of the movie Placido, which you can find via torrent, and a PayPal account for me to send the money if you're the first one done. If you're interested but don't know how to access the movie via torrent, send me an email or DM me on Twitter (at alsolikelife) to let me know you're interested, and I'll hook you up. Offer good only until February 28, so better get cracking!

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

The following citations were counted towards the placement of Placido among the 1000 Greatest Films according to They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

Antonio Gimenez-Rico, Nickel Odeon (1997) Fernando Trueba, Nickel Odeon (1994) Jose Luis Garci, Nickel Odeon (1998) Montxo Armendariz, Fotogramas (2006) Pedro Crespo, Nickel Odeon (1997) Dirigido Por, Best Spanish Films (1992) Fotogramas, The 100 Best Films in the History of Cinema (1995) Nickel Odeon, The Films of Our Life (1994) Nickel Odeon, Spanish Canon (1995) They Shoot Pictures Recommended Film

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Nominated for the Best Foreign Language film award at that year's Oscars, Plácido—a Christmas movie—has a direct relationship with the work of Frank Capra and in particular It's a Wonderful Life (1946), albeit with none of Capra's sentimentality. Meanwhile, if Plácido unmasked the dominant discourses surrounding the traditional family and Christian charity, El verdugo, arguably his finest film, struck at the very heart of the repressive Francoist state. El verdugo tells the story of a man who, on marrying the daughter of the state executioner, is condemned to inherit his father-in-law's job. This is a story that interrogates and unveils the anatomy of Spanish society at an historical turning point. The film, for example, unpicks the reality of the country's 1960s tourist boom that would, on the one hand, help consolidate the revived fortunes of the Spanish economy, while on the other, would bring with it the unwanted 'foreign' values of liberalism and sexual freedom.

- Steven Marsh, Senses of Cinema Great Directors Biography

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Mr. Berlanga's 1961 film, "Placido," (...) is a chattery comedy about an impoverished man who spends the day before Christmas trying to avoid foreclosure on his motorbike. The character's frantic dealings with bankers and lawyers are set against the film's satirical canvas of a provincial town putting on a showy Christmas campaign called "Seat a Poor Man at Your Table." With its harshly funny portrait of the penny-pinching gentry, of greedy nuns and aggressive salespeople pushing pressure cookers as miraculous kitchen tools, the film offers a scabrously mocking portrait of officialdom putting on a display that is as grotesque as it is hypocritical.

- Stephen Holden, The New York Times

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ADDITIONAL REVIEWS (found on IMDb)

As is almost always the case with the films of Berlanga, this film is a comedy on the surface, which hides a very hard and crude criticism of the situation of Spanish society during the dictatorship. In those years, Spanish filmmakers couldn't speak freely and openly about the dismal state of their country, so they had to pass their message to the audience between the lines. Berlanga was a master at doing this, and Plácido is one of his finest examples. The abysmal differences that existed between the very poor (the majority of the population at the time) and the very rich, who treated the rest with utter contempt and ridiculous condescency, is portrayed with such strength that it can't leave anyone indifferent. But it is done in the form of a comedy, and a very funny one, full of absurd situations and memorable dialogues, but also a very black one, with some scenes, especially near the end of the movie, which are on the edge of the truly macabre. A true masterpiece from one of the greatest Spanish directors. ----------

The atmosphere of this film took me back to another time and place, to a very naive and innocent Spain. This film is Garcia Berlanga's incursion into his own brand of neorealism. The music keeps evoking the scores of the great Italian masterpieces of that period.??Placido, the hero, in a way, is everyman caught in a web of bureaucracy where he has to fight against all the odds to keep his vehicle in order to survive. He does whatever he can in order to pay the draft, but all conspires against him. Placido is a decent working person, a man of honor who has to fulfill his obligations, in this case, paying the draft that is due on the day the story unfolds. Everything is against him. We see him fighting his way to do so, in this, his long journey into the Christmas Eve celebration.??Cassen was a marvelous and charismatic actor who was very convincing as Placido. He's always at the center of the action, and at times, he is even at the center of some of the other characters conflicts. Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez, is very effective as Gabino, the photographer. The rest of the ensemble cast perform very well under the direction of Garcia Berlanga. ---------

In a small town of Spain, on the eve of Christmas, some ladies are invented the Christmas campaign "dine with a poor", so that the poorest people, enjoyment by a night of warmth and affection that do not have, sitting at the table of the rich families. In the middle of the preparations is "Plácido", (Cassen), which is hired to participate with his motorcar in the cavalcade organized for the campaign, but there is a small detail which prevented him from devoted solely to his task: the same day of Christmas Eve, defeats him the first invoice of motorcar, his sole means of livelihood.??It is one of the masterpieces undisputed and fundamental filmography of Luis Garcia Berlanga. Filmed at the time summit of their creativity, in a period cultural difficult, where the enormous censorship of the political regime, exacerbated the ingenuity and imagination of the scriptwriters. A script, with malevolent intent, of own Berlanga and Rafael Azcona and under the direction of Berlanga very far from the tenderness that taught in previous work, make a comedy coral with a bitter, pessimistic reflection on the Spanish society of the time.??It is a acquired late, both in the form as in the fund and a portrait heartless and merciless of a society hypocritical, petty with double standards, where the most important are the appearance, and that preaches charity but not the practice, which is bothering him poverty but that does nothing to eradicate and that it needs to launch a cruel farce, in the form of Christmas campaign.??The movie has breakdown unrepeatable major players in their best performances, which would have to be stressed in all. It's full of memorable sequences, grotesque, surreal and the time dramatic It's especially unforgettable which develops in the public toilet. And the long scene, genial sequence in which the sudden deterioration of the state of health of one of the poor, seriously ill, triggers a situation comic-pathetic which shows all the miseries of that society amoral??The film has a indent brilliant, and the dialogs never ebb, are kept in a high level of ingenious humor . It has nothing to envy Italian masters such as De Sica or Fellini and that in movies such as "Placido", is even better.??I think it is my favorite movie.

994 (126). El Sur / The South (1983, Victor Erice)

Screened December 19 2009 on unsubbed Region 2 DVD with subtitle file in Brooklyn NY TSPDT Rank #907 IMDb Wiki

There's a strong suggestion of a great movie in Victor Erice's second feature, made 10 years after his celebrated debut The Spirit of the Beehive. Erice's breathtaking use of natural light demands comparison to Vermeer, while his ability to evoke a child's wonder and terror at the mysteries of the world make him an art cinema antecedent to Spielberg.  But financing woes halted filming on this story of a girl's attempt to solve the riddle of her enigmatic father. While Erice edited the footage to what he considers a finished film, it's clearly lacking a satisfying final act (in which the daughter travels to the father's hometown carrying clues to his past).

But the narrative is just as compromised by moments that stray from the child's first-person perspective, Erice's strong suit. Scenes where the father corresponds to an old flame diffuse the suspense, though they give the film clarity in its truncated form. A running voiceover narration by the girl as an adult reinforces a sense of pastness that further dilutes the primacy of the moments Erice offers us, a number of them visually stunning.

It's strange that Erice would allow a voiceover to structure a film whose underlying thesis is the futility of words: the father's anguished letters leading to no good outcome; his awkward conversations with his daughter and virtual non-communication with his wife. Instead, it's objects, images and gestures that link the characters: an amulet, a drawing of a woman, a joyful communion dance, the incessant pounding of a cane on floorboard. These are also Erice's best forms of communicating, and what ultimately links this film to his viewers.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

The following citations were counted towards the placement of El Sur among the 1000 Greatest Films according to They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

Javier Aguirresarobe, Nickel Odeon (1994) Mirito Torreiro, El Mundo (1995) Shiori Kazama, Kinema Junpo (1999) Ursula Vossen, Nickel Odeon (1997) Dirigido Por, Best Spanish Films (1992) Kinema Junpo, The Greatest Foreign Films (1999) Nickel Odeon Spanish Canon (1995) Nickel Odeon The Films of Our Life (1994) They Shoot Pictures Recommended Films

HISTORICAL REVIEWS

''EL SUR'' (''The South''), opening today at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, is the second feature by Victor Erice, the Spanish director whose first film, ''The Spirit of the Beehive,'' was one of the critical hits of 1976.

As was Mr. Erice's method in ''The Spirit of the Beehive,'' the new film reveals its concerns in small, seemingly unimportant details, much in the manner of a traumatized psychiatric patient. Every gesture is loaded with associated meanings. Objects are symbolic. Yet the emotional inhibitions, which had political significance in the first film, aren't particularly provocative here. The movie seems to whisper when there seems no reason why it can't speak in a normal voice.

''El Sur'' is nicely acted by Omero Antonutti as Agustin and Iciar Bollan as the teen-age Estrella, though it lacks a dominating performance like that of Ana Torrent in ''Beehive.'' Everything about ''El Sur,'' including the highly theatrical lighting, is so artfully composed that it seems to be more about film making than characters or ideas.

-Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, January 15, 1988

On the surface, despite the presence of a different fictional source (a story by Adelaida Garcia Morales) and scriptwriter (Jose Luis Lopez Linares), Victor Erice’s second feature seems to bring back some of the haunting obsessions of his first, the wonderful Spirit of the Beehive (1973): the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the magical spell exerted by movies over childhood, and a little girl’s preoccupation with her father and the past. But as English critic Tim Pulleine has observed, a reference to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt in El sur (South, 1983) points to an elaborate system of doubling and duplication that underlies the film’s structure as a whole, operating on the level of shots and sequences as well as themes (north and south, father and daughter, real and imaginary). Although this subtle spellbinder ends somewhat abruptly, reportedly because the film’s budget ran out, it seems to form a nearly perfect whole as it is: a brooding tale about an intense father-daughter relationship and the unknowable past, mysterious and resonant, with the poetic ambience of a story by Faulkner.

- Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Reader

El Sur is a simple film, rich in interesting childhood observations and perspectives. It is marred, however, by underdeveloped characters and the lack of a sense of closure.

The character Estrella (Sonsoles Aranguren) is well developed and thoughtful. Estrella's actions and emotions are full of meaning and insight and not too na"ive. The film successfully explores a unique father-daughter relationship and the accepting nature of children.

Agustin (Omero Antonutti), however, is not fully developed as a character, despite his central role in the movie. Although the father character is meant to be mysterious, the reasoning behind many of his actions often needs more explanation. For example, his feelings for a past lover are never fully explained, leaving the viewers with an awful sense of being shut out. This and other underdeveloped aspects of the film ultimately affect the film's ending, which is unfulfilling, predictable, and not at all tragic.

- Ricardo Rodriguez, The MIT Tech, February 28, 1989

INTERVIEW WITH VICTOR ERICE

Geoff Andrew:  I'd like to move on to your next film,The South [El Sur, Spain/France, 1983]. Some of you may remember it from when it was released in 1983. It's a quite wonderful film, I think, and is totally coherent, yet it's a film that was never finished. You weren't allowed to shoot everything that you wanted to, and it's shorter than it would have been as part of the story isn't there. Was that a very painful experience for you?

Victor Erice: Yes, it was very painful for the drama [of the film] but, of course, for film-makers this is quite a common occurrence. The film was interrupted for financial reasons. On the other hand, in terms of production it went very well, it was a happy time. Even in the state it is in, the film had a lot of commercial success in Spain, and especially from the critics. It should have been one hour longer, although many critics and spectators have applauded the fact that the south - which would be the south of the country - is never actually seen in the film. My taste is a little more common: I wanted to show it, especially as I was born in the north but lived many years of my life in the south. I felt that this was a wonderful opportunity to have the north and the south coming together in the film. Naturally this was a metaphor for the divisions that became apparent in the Civil War and, similarly, the divisions in a person who can't assimilate or join two parts of his own being.

The figure of the father in The South is a man divided between two loves: his romantic passion and his mundane life with his wife. It's about a man who always wants to go to the south but never manages to go. The train is always going past the station but he never manages to get on. He returns home like a clandestine person and he dies. And in a sense he leaves a mandate because, when he is about to die, he leaves under the pillow of his daughter the symbol of the communion, the thing that tied them together in their youth. This is the last thing that he does in his life so he is there, working like an impulse to provoke the daughter to make this trip that he was never able to make - and she does do what he could never do.

In the part that was never filmed, this girl does reach the south in Andalusia, where her father was born and lived his own childhood, so it completed the story of her father's death. In this way she was able to reconcile herself with the image of her father. This was the original project of the film. The film as it is now is still under the weight of the pain and, of course, the visit to the south was the redemption and she could grow up and become an adult. I can't say it would have been a happy film but there would have been a new energy and vitality because, in every story, to understand the history of one's parents is so important for every human being.

- Interview at the National Film Theatre, London, September 2 2003

CONTEMPORARY REVIEWS

Based on the novel by Adelaida García Morales, El Sur is a deceptively lyrical and delicately realized, yet haunting portrait of maturation, estrangement, alienation, and dislocation. Victor Erice achieves an atmosphere that is both naturalistic and mystical by shooting in natural light to visually reinforce hues and gradations that, in turn, reflect Estrella's gradual perceptional shift towards her father. Exploring similar themes that would also pervade Theo Angelopoulos' subsequent 1986 film, The Beekeeper, Victor Erice draws an implicit correlation between geographic division and the legacy of civil war: the parallel rites of passage between the marriage of Spyros' daughter in The Beekeeper and Estrella's first holy communion in El Sur; the profoundly isolated Spyros' apicultural migration to the south that represents a similar lure of an ephemeral (or unrequited) paradise lost to the melancholic and withdrawn Agustín (as well as both filmmakers' paradoxical characterization of the south as a destination that represents vitality and figurative death); the complex role of the cinema as a place of escape and also a contemplative medium for introspection and personal assessment. Erice further integrally incorporates cinema into the development of the multilayered narrative through a passing homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (through a preview poster at the CineArcadia) that uncoincidentally bears a similar plot of a young woman's demystification of her idolized, charismatic uncle with whom she believes she shares a profound connection (also note a similar integration of homage and narrative Erice's earlier film, The Spirit of the Beehive and the James Whale film, Frankenstein). However, unlike the intrigue of the seminal Hitchcock film, the mystery of El Sur unravels with the imperceptible weight of a tossed skein of red yarn - exposing, not a barbarous crime, but the unendurable realization of being ordinary and unremarkably human.

- Acquarello, Strictly Film School

Víctor Erice’s second feature, shot 22 years ago, ten years after his first, El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive), took as its starting point a 47-page story by Adelaida García Morales that was published two years earlier. I’d recommend reading it after watching El sur, mainly because its last 12 pages allow us to imagine how the film would have developed if Erice had been allowed to shoot his adapted script in its entirety (the story originally concludes in southern Spain). For reasons never sufficiently explained, or openly discussed – though I do have a theory of my own about these complex, deep motivations – the shooting of El sur was halted, allegedly for the Christmas holidays, never to be resumed. Perhaps naïvely hoping to finally be allowed to shoot a second part – which was never intended as such or to be a separate movie – Erice kept diplomatically quiet, and edited a coherent film from the material available to him; it was sent to the Cannes Film Festival where it was hailed as a masterpiece, and the second part was silently but definitely shelved.|

Once you know that what you’re going to see, or have just watched, is only half the movie Erice wanted to make, and despite the fact that there are some things which never get explained or fully developed, you should forget this knowledge and enjoy what there is to see and hear, which is plenty. Regardless of the understandable frustration Erice still feels about the issue, while shrinking from others descriptions of the film as a masterpiece, El sur is still substantively a great film like Stroheim’s Greed (1924) or Peckinpah’s Major Dundee (1965). If you haven’t read either the original screenplay or the tale, you might never imagine that the film is not a fully mastered and completed work. In fact, despite its unfinished state, El sur is for me – and others – one of the greatest films ever made in Spain, and perhaps Erice’s most refined and mature work as a director.

From the opening sequence – in my recollection the most impressive since Dreyer’s Ordet (1964) and Ford’s The Searchers (1956) – one gathers that everything in this picture has been thought through and carried out with extreme care and precision; that there can be no loose ends, only cut threads owing to the film being only half of what Erice intended at over three hours. If the South announced in the film’s title remains a felt, mythical presence, almost dreamt but never reached or seen (only glimpsed on postcards while accompanied by the chords of Enrique Granados’ piano music on the soundtrack), it nevertheless remains a key reference, a significant motif in the film’s narrative. Although uncompleted, El sur is a much more accomplished, richer, deeper, complex and moving picture than El espíritu de la colmena. It marks a decisive step forward in Erice’s progression as a filmmaker. El sur is much more dense and allows us to get much nearer to several of the characters; its silences are not of the same kind as those that are so significant in El espíritu de la colmena. There is more interaction, and much more feeling and confrontation too, in El sur. In contrast, most adults in El espíritu de la colmena, even the parents – who never exchange a word - are kept mainly at a distance, in a different, separate world from that inhabited by the two sisters who are so alone that they are ready to see ghosts. The relationships in El sur are more real and painful.

- Miguel Marais, Senses of Cinema

In The South we watch a group of mostly disconnected individuals try to deal with the legacy of a receding past; the Civil War and the divisions it has forged within families and between generations. Although this film is a somewhat truncated version of Erice's original vision—he conceived of a final section actually set and filmed in the 'south'—its refusal to move outside the isolated northern community which the family inhabits, in a kind of exile, leaves open the potentiality for the processes of imagination and creative subjectivity that define Erice's work (as well as his characters). In a scene reminiscent of the Stereoscope sequence in Malick's Badlands (1973), Estrella, the young girl who is the 'focus' of the story, uses the material things that surround her to create an understanding and sense of the somewhat inconceivable world beyond her immediate experience. Because her parents rarely discuss the past, she has to extrapolate from the old-fashioned hand-coloured photographs she finds in a family album, or imagine her father's past lover from a lobby card she picks up at the local cinema (as in The Spirit of the Beehive, cinema is used as a means to spark imagination and to create identity). The worlds of Erice's films emerge as a collection of disconnected but connected signs—aural and visual—that enable the characters to come into being.

It is the look and sound of Erice's films that is often their most remarkable and telling characteristic. His work is full of ambient, often isolated, perhaps not even adequately sourced, sounds. It is often these sounds which most clearly haunt and disturb the characters. These sounds are also an indication of a world outside of the explicitly framed—this is a cinema full of frames-within-frames, doorways, windows, metaphors of entrapment—and often boxed-in environments we are shown (gunshots, barking dogs, train whistles, vehicles shifting gear). Sound is often figured as a site of the imagination and the unknown, a trigger for processes of creativity, memory and identity formation. For example, early in The South the narrator tells of her first memory (assumedly 're'-constructed at a later time from a story told by her parents), in which her father mysteriously 'designates' her gender while she is still in the womb—the first of a series of uncanny connections that bind father and daughter together in this family romance. Thus, it is not just sounds but words that are central to the make up of the characters.

- Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema Great Directors Biography

Erice is concerned with the exploration of myth, and the fragile balance that exists between its positive and negative qualities: the positive being the capacity of myth to provide explanations for the inexplicable, to help us to bear the unbearable, and the negative being its potential for aiding mass manipulation and subjugation. (Both qualities exploited freely by the Franco Regime, although that is not the focus here.) The godlike power of creation, control over human destiny and (to a greater or lesser extent) over the consumer form a basic link between cinema and the myth of the father in this film. The paradox lies in that, although we may not live so easily without them, if myths remain unquestioned, we run the risk of becoming their victims. Myth offers coherence and consolation, but should also provide a focus for the kind of curiosity aroused in Estrella that will, sooner or later, destroy it. El sur is  a celebration of the way film constructs its own myths, and the cinema is an ideal vehicle for the  analysis of our capacity and need to construct personal versions and visions of life as we 'see' it. It is also a moving illustration of the power of cinematic myth and of the paradox that we are safest in our enjoyment when we can acknowledge with more confidence than Agustín  that 'las cosas que ocurren  en el cine son mentira'.

- Jo Evans, University College London

ABOUT VICTOR ERICE

IMDb Wiki

Victor Erice has directed just three features and two shorts in a little over thirty years (the shorts, included in portmanteau films, bookend the three features he has made roughly ten years apart). (2) In its studied and contemplative approach to cinema, as well as its meagre productivity, Erice's career can be compared to that of Carl Dreyer and Terrence Malick. The connections to the work of these great, visionary filmmakers do not end there. Like Malick & Dreyer, Erice is a filmmaker who explores his environments through precise, lyrical, light-filled or filtered compositions. He also presents characters that are inseparable from or mired in particular times, spaces and historical moments. Erice's first two films (like Malick's) also feature strong, structurally central female characters forging their identity within masculine environments (a striving which often stages itself as act of speaking, of finding voice). (3) Although his films are artfully composed, Erice also shoots in a manner that, like Malick, is responsive to the sound-image possibilities and accidents that emerge on location. But whereas one can imagine, or even fantasise about, the philosophical questioning of Malick and the spiritual contemplation of Dreyer occupying them between films, Erice throws up another 'picture' all together. Although he actually has made his living writing film criticism, screenplays and directing for television (including a surprisingly large number of commercials) one would rather imagine, or at least easily conceive, that his films are the product of a deep, extended process of reflection, of repose, the outcome of an accretion of details and minute, precise observations captured over a sustained period of time (a process/practice suggested by the knowledge that he insisted on filming every day during the two-month shooting schedule of his third feature, The Quince Tree Sun [1992]—resorting to video when film stock, and the money for it, intermittently ran out).

The most remarked upon quality of Erice's cinema is its visual dimension. His films are dominated by the juxtaposition of often stark long shots and beautifully composed and lit vignette– or tableau–like compositions. His camera moves intermittently, but usually only to reframe or follow the characters. Thus, his films do have a studied, contemplative quality on a compositional level (they are full of repeated set-ups and move between a sense of closeness and distance). The most remarkable element of his films' visual dimension is the qualities of light that they capture—not unlike a painting by Vermeer or Valázquez (though modern, this also hints at the timeless, partly anachronistic quality of Erice's cinema). This light is often sculptural, its physical dimensions affecting both the perception of the spectator and the actions of the characters. (For example, the browns, burnt yellows and oranges that dominate the bleak interior and exterior landscapes of The South express the muted anguish of the characters, but also seem to shape their literal movement in space.)

Both The South and The Spirit of the Beehive are films about the experiential realities of characters, communities—and a country—in isolation. They each primarily focus on female characters attempting to forge their own identities within somewhat barren, chilly and mute environments. Erice's films are also remarkable for the space they give to all of their characters—even the woman (played by Aurore Clément) only seen in the film-within-a-film in The South is able to express herself through the long letter she sends to Estrella's father. This virtual dialectic, between specific, knowable entities/characters and the world that surrounds them, is carried over to a general understanding of the connections between images and sounds in Erice's cinema. Thus, although many of the images and sounds of his films seem to partly exist for themselves—highlighted by the common use of the fade to black, which tends to isolate shots—they are also part of a rich fabric of associations. In regard to this, Erice's films constantly play upon the tension between movement and stillness, ambulation and repose, the isolated observation and its macroscopic implications.

- Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema Great Directors Biography

Geoff Andrew: You were a film critic yourself and you've always been a cinephile. What was it that attracted you to the cinema in the first place? When did you become interested in films?

Victor Erice: It's difficult to say. It's more like an experience. I don't feel that I chose cinema or films. I feel they chose me. I don't mean this to be pretentious. In my childhood, films were fundamentally important. In a country that, especially in the 1940s, was very isolated from the rest of the world and marked by the Civil War, films gave me an extraordinary possibility to be a citizen of the world.

GA: And did you always want to make films as well? Obviously, maybe not as a kid, but you did become a critic when you were quite young...

VE: It was an evolution, I suppose, and I became conscious of it when I was about 19. But you don't choose to be a film director when you are small. You would be a small monster. Also, you can say that nobody chooses whom to love.

- Interview at the National Film Theatre, London, September 2 2003

It was like this - through writing - that one day I began to think about cinema, and discovered another way of prolonging its vision, of realising it. It was in the summer of 1959, after having seen The 400 Blows at the San Sebastian Film Festival. At the end of the screening, I came out onto the street, moved. And that same night I felt the need to put into words the ideas and feelings that had been awoken in me by François Truffaut’s images. It was the first time that such a thing had happened to me. The years have passed and, though I have been able to shoot a few films, I continue to write every now and then.

We did know it, without a doubt, though perhaps we forgot: ‘Cinematography, art of the Century’. This is precisely what was once said of cinema when, in a gesture not exempt from bad faith, justice was sought by virtue of bestowing upon cinema all the privileges conferred by social recognition. Never, not even at that solemn moment, did we imagine that with the passing of years cinema would become an essential element of our memory, the container capable of holding the images that best reflect the human experience of the century that has just died. How could we not find in that gaze that we project backwards, suspended in the air, the figure of the angel of melancholy! It is, in some way, inevitable. Since that single history, that of cinema and the twentieth century, is confused, irremediably, with our own biography. I am referring to the people of my generation, born in the time of silence and ruin that followed our civil war. Orphans, real or symbolic, were adopted by cinema. It offered us an extraordinary consolation, a sense of belonging to a world: precisely that which, paradoxically, Communication, in its present state of maximum development, does not offer.

Cinema nowadays, since it is based on technical reproducibility and universal dissemination, features accelerated by the effects of video and television (both capable of multiplying these aspects ad infinitum); cinema as product and nothing more than product (according to the rules of the Market – more unrelenting than ever, to the extent that it has accomplished the alienation of the notion of the author), is merely allowed, socially and on a global scale, by the established powers, a sole destiny: a destiny proper to the entertainment industry [la industria del espectáculo]. It is for this reason that, at the present crossroads, cinema may have no alternative other than to fall back on itself so that it may, once it has assumed its solitude, affirm itself in its dignity: a dignity conferred onto it by virtue of being the last of the artistic languages invented by man. This is its differentiating quality, what truly distinguishes it from other audiovisual communication media.

Every now and then, transformed into ghosts, the bodies that are present in the images of those films that (as Jean Louis Schefer has written) ‘have looked at our childhood’ rise from their graves and appear on the small screen of the television, at the latest hours, nearing dawn. Offering themselves to our insomniac eyes, they seem to tell us something: what? Amongst other things, that cinema today exists so as to bring back what was once seen. Its future, in this sense, is its past, though on the condition that we contemplate it with an undeceiving eye, with no dread. Given that, as Jean-Luc Godard affirmed, ‘cinema authorises Orpheus to look back without letting Eurydice die.’

- Victor Erice. Originally published in Banda aparte no. 9/10 (Valencia, January 1998). Reprinted with permission of the author. Translated from the Spanish for Rouge by Carlos Morrero. Thanks to Alvaro Arroba.

984 (116). Bienvenido, Mister Marshall / Welcome, Mister Marshall (1953, Luis Garcia Berlanga)

Screened November 11, 2009 on Tribanda DVD in Brooklyn NY TSPDT rank #  IMDb Wiki

What is it about Spanish cinema that just nails how people are possessed by dreams and stories? Of course I'm making an overgeneralization, and yet the three Spanish filmmakers that I know best, Bunuel, Almodovar and (sheepishly, based on watching two films) Berlanga, all share an uncommon fascination with the rapture of storytelling. Whether through a voiceover narration or one person telling a tale to another, these films traffic in the private fantasies and urges of characters and audience alike. It's true in Bunuel's earliest sound film L'Age D'Or, with its narrative framework disintegrating into a lucid stream of on-screen impulsive acts, or as recently as Almodovar's Broken Embraces, where much of the film's pleasure is in just watching characters being transfixed by each other's stories.

Within this hypothetical national subgenre, Bienvenido, Mister Marshall stands tall. A sleepy Castillan village tries to transform itself into an Andalusian postcard paradise upon hearing that American postwar funders may pass through. The voiceover sets it up like a fable ("There once was an old spanish Town"); the film is not only an allegory for a nation's collective submission to the utopian facades of Franco's Fascist Spain, but to the countermyth of America, which pervades the characters' dreams as well as fears. Two sequences bear this out vividly. In the first, villagers are ordered to line up and tell the administrators, Santa Claus-style, one thing they would like in return for contributing to the fake village effort. Some of the impoverished villagers can't even mentally process this offer, having never been in a position to dream big, much less ask for things beyond food, clothing and shelter. The other is a brilliant sequence that relays from one character's nocturnal fantasies to another, each one informed in their own way by the movies: a priest's nightmare shot with Expressionist angles of Puritanical oppression; the mayor's fantasy of gunslinging Western heroism; a farmer's dream that brilliantly mixes social realist propaganda and Hollywood fantasy, with a plane flown by Santa Claus parachuting tractors to the peasantry.

With its withering observations on human fallacy and self-delusion on both an individual and collective level, Bienvenido, Mister Marshall would be one of the most merciless social satires ever made, if its condescending omniscience towards its subjects didn't somehow implicate itself. There's a priceless moment where the voiceover chastises a schoolmistress in bed possibly doing indecent things to herself; in doing so the narrator outs himself as being as much of a control freak as Franco. As such, the film amounts to its own fantasy construct of Spain as an eternally tragic, but laughably charming dystopia. It does as masterful a job of selling its vision as the fascist and capitalist ideologues it eviscerates.

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This is a comic Trojan horse and perhaps the first great Spanish film. When a commission for a folkloric musical to make Lolita Sevilla a star fell to the secretly pro-communist UNINCI production company, Bardem and Berlanga used the cash to show how all the Francoist world was a stage in a tall tale of a drab Castilian village that does itself up in Andalusian glad rags in order to attract dollars from the Marshall Plan. An amazing satire of what Spain and Spanishness was reduced to during the dictatorship, cooked up with equal parts anarchy and compassion and flavoured like an Ealing comedy.

- Time Out

Welcome, Mr. Marshall! was one of the rare Spanish films to treat political events of the day—foremost the exclusion of the country, as a pariah nation, from Marshall Plan funds. The movie concerns the frenzied attempts of a small Castilian town to seduce American money by organizing a ridiculous fiesta; the place becomes a kind of false-front movie set masking the dire conditions in which the inhabitants really live. This sharp, good-humored spoof of Spanishness—or the Hollywood image of Spanishness—bears a resemblance to the best Ealing comedies.

- Elliot Stein, The Village Voice

¡Bienvenido Mister Marshall! (Welcome Mister Marshall!, 1952) the first full-length film Berlanga directed alone, marks a watershed in Spanish cinema history. Although it is probably his most celebrated film, it is by no means his best. Originally conceived of as a musical vehicle to launch the career of the teenage flamenco singer Lolita Sevilla, Berlanga created both a devastating parody of Francoist mythmaking (particularly of the regime's promotion of Spain to the outside world as a picturesque paradise of bullfighting and flamenco), and a searing commentary on the Economic Recovery Program (better known as The Marshall Plan), of which Spain was never a beneficiary. Made the year before the United States established military bases on Spanish territory, ¡Bienvenido Mister Marshall!manages to lampoon Hollywood, McCarthyism, the Catholic Church and Francoism all at the same time. Remarkably, the Spanish authorities saw little to object in it and the film escaped major censorship. However, the film missed out on a prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year due to the veto of jury member Edward G. Robinson who complained of its anti-Americanism.

- Steven Marsh, Senses of Cinema

The wonderful way in which it blends humour with an appreciation of humanity. It’s hilarious, true; but it also reflects a warm understanding of human nature, of the universal habit of assigning stereotypes to everybody and everything, of the ability to dream and build castles in the air; and of the resilience of those dreams. Beinvenido Mister Marshall! actually reminded me a lot of Giovanni Guareschi’s superb novels of the Italian priest, Don Camillo, and his little village in the Po Valley. If you look closely, there’s more than just humour here: there’s also a sensitivity that’s touching and sweet. And so very global: Villar del Río could have been any quiet village in any corner of the world, suddenly faced with the chance of becoming rich…

- Dusted Off

¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! has long been noted as a landmark film in Spanish cinema, "el clásico más irónico del cine español" that "cracked open new possibilities for engagement with significant socio-political commentary within conventional comedic modes" (Moyano; Rolph 8). The Berlanga film can be listed as part of a series of cultural, political, and economic events that make the early 1950s a key moment in the evolution of the Franco regime and Spain in general. As such a classic film arriving at such a key moment, Berlanga´s film has been studied from a variety of viewpoints, but typically either viewed as a film of social critique or aesthetic exploration. Ramón Gubern, for example, describes its ideological project in terms of post-1898 "Regeneracionismo" while Kathleen Vernon reads the film as a critique of the seepage of Hollywood into everyday life (Gubern, in Gómez Rufo 250-51; Vernon 321). In the following pages I argue that the two readings, while not discounting the other, have not been sufficiently linked. By linking the two, I find in Berlanga´s film a social critique that extends beyond the immediate historical limits of 1953 Spain defined by a flagging regionarationist spirit, its present cultural subservience to Hollywood, or its forthcoming encounter with U.S. foreign policy. As aesthetic exploration and social critique are read together, ¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! may be viewed as a film more about processes than products. It is a film that invites its spectators along on an exploration of the processes by which their nation has been imagined, is currently imagined, and especially how it may be imagined in the future. In so doing, the film hints at new social, political, and spatial orders to come in the next half-century that begin with but extend far beyond the simple remaking of a nation (Spain), of its internal components (Castilla/Andalucía), or of its basic international relations (Spain/U.S.). It may be a stretch to argue that Berlanga´s film is a story about globalization. Still, I argue that by drawing social and aesthetically-focused readings together, a view of the film surfaces that reveals the film´s registration of emergent processes through which spectators as citizens (or citizens as spectators, as I will show) would participate to thoroughly rethink and reshape their world in the coming decades...

The critical if comedic exploration surrounding the remaking of Villar is quite apparent to even the casual viewer. More critical to our reading is the way that Berlanga positions his spectator to draw connections between the imagination of Villar del Río, the Spanish nation, and the international order, and, by way of meta-cinematic devices, between the on-screen re-imagining and that which is taking place in the dark of the movie theater. This more far-reaching exploration of the re-imagining of nation begins with the opening shot of the film. A still focus on a dirt road vanishing into the rural meseta situates the on-screen story in the heart of Franco´s officially celebrated Castilian countryside. As the opening credits end, an automobile approaches along the road. As it passes, the camera pans 180 degrees to the left to reveal the village of Villar del Río in the distance as a flock of sheep graze in the foreground. While classic Hollywood film-the kind parodied by Bienvenido, but most familiar to its audiences-would dictate a reverse shot at this point to follow the opening shot and thereby suture a would-be spectator into an initial identification, here Berlanga´s editing leaves the spectator in limbo. Explicitly, the camera would seem to be a local villager on the outskirts of the town. Implicitly, by breaking the magical invisibility of classic cinema, the would-be spectator is not invited to identify with this look but left rather in the uncomfortable position of an anticipating film viewer still awaiting the moment of suture. In light of this separation, it is significant that the spectator stands just beyond the town sign, explicitly a member of the community of Villar del Río, but implicitly empowered with an outsider´s awareness of that community as yet an object of the cinematic gaze. Hence, before the spectator meets Villar´s people and places-its signified--, she sees (literally) Villar´s sign post-or signifier-and thereby recognizes Villar as such...

Berlanga´s film, then, is not simply about a disappointing non-encounter, nor a film about changing concepts of respective nations, but ultimately, a film about the changing concept of the nation itself. The nation could not continue as before because the technologies through which it had once been imagined had changed. Berlanga´s film does not suggest that Spain would disappear, nor that it would become one homogenous Andalucía, nor another US colony. Change would appear more subtly but its effects would finally be more profound. After all, at the conclusion of the film Villar del Río returns to its farming roots, just as citizens of the global era so often flock to ethnic roots for security from "Marshall-izing" motorcades.(20) Nevertheless, tapping back into those roots now costs the villagers, just as sustaining "authentic" identities against encroaching global cultural forces requires economic capital. And while, as the film´s fairytale conclusion, "colorín colorado este cuento se ha acabado," affirms the right of all to keep dreaming, the fact remains that Villar del Río still lacks a railroad—the means for the common citizens to move beyond their community and do more than imagine themselves in other possible communities. As in our own global work, while the villagers are stuck, foreign delegates at various levels blow in and out of town, raising and then dashing hope, promising prosperity but delivering only more—and now more self-consciously felt—poverty (see Friedman 112-42; Harvey 59-72 for contemporary comparisons). The debate over the film´s ending continues today. Is it hopeful? Is it terribly pessimistic? One might argue that Berlanga finally adopts a rather postmodernist or globalist position: resigned, if playfully so. As writers from David Harvey to Thomas Friedman have remarked, many of the processes of globalization simply cannot be reversed (Harvey 85; Friedman xxii). The community we inhabit can no longer be imagined as it once was. Moreover, the subject who imagines is each day less a citizen and more a consumer and spectator. Nevertheless, awareness of the nature of the spaces we inhabit and of the technologies that shape these spaces into imagined communities can facilitate discovery of possible strategies for remaking those spaces. For all its playfulness and, finally, resignation, ¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall!, at least produces a degree of awareness that combines with its playful critique to open the door to potential agency in the struggle to participate in the reshaping of a now postnational community. Perhaps in this empowering lays the remarkable staying power of Berlanga´s film.

- Nathan E. Richardson, Bowling Green State University

ABOUT LUIS GARCIA BERLANGA

For many years in Spain strict censorship guidelines inhibited the development of a vital and creative film industry. The first original auteur of the post-Civil War period was Luis García Berlanga. When he began to make movies in the early 1950s, Berlanga and fellow filmmaker Juan Antonio Bardem were referred to as the two palm trees in the desert of Spanish film. Since then, and in spite of the fact that he could make relatively few films under Franco, Berlanga has remained one of Spain's foremost talents.

- Katherine Singer Kovács, Film Reference.com

Although his projects were often halted and cut by censors during the dictatorship, Berlanga managed to challenge the Franco myth through comedy, ridiculing Spanish foibles with chaotic farces and outlandish sight gags. Berlanga's own personal history is emblematic of the shifting complexities of Spanish politics. He describes himself as "a Christian, but creatively an anarchist and politically a liberal." But as a young man, during World War II, he had volunteered for the "Blue Division" that went to battle in the Soviet Union to aid the Nazi cause. Berlanga maintains that he did so to save his Republican father from a death sentence.

Elliot SteinThe Village Voice

Born into a wealthy, land-owning family in Spain's eastern province of Valencia, Berlanga enjoyed a comfortable and untroubled upbringing until the onset of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. While the Francoist uprising sought to bring down the democratically-elected Second Republic, Berlanga's father was one of the Valencia regional representatives in the national parliament. In the aftermath of the war Berlanga senior was arrested and sentenced to death. Eventually the sentence was commuted but he remained in prison until 1952, only to die six months after his release. Meanwhile, shortly before the end of the war the 18-year-old Berlanga junior was mobilised by the Republican forces and conscripted into a medical unit. Following the Francoist victory, in what constitutes one of the many paradoxes of Berlanga's life, he seemingly changed sides and volunteered to serve in the Blue Division—the unit of Spanish soldiers who travelled to the Soviet Union to fight for Germany in World War II as part of an agreement between Hitler and Franco—in a desperate effort to gain favour with the regime and save his father's life. Although he never directly saw action, the future filmmaker would draw upon these experiences in later life and the dark comedy that pervades his cinema is marked by these ironies. Berlanga is not only the funniest but also the bleakest of Spanish directors.

Once back in Spain, Berlanga moved to Madrid and commenced his studies in literature at the city's Complutense University. It was during this period that he developed an interest in cinema. In 1947, when the Madrid film school—the portentously named Institute of Cinematic Investigation and Experience (IIEC)—opened, Berlanga promptly dropped his literary studies and switched. Created by Franco's cultural commissars after the Civil War, the school was modelled on Rome's Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia founded by Benito Mussolini (which spawned, amongst other lauded directors, Roberto Rossellini and Michelangelo Antonioni).

Together with his classmates from the first promotion of graduates from the IIEC—among whom was his friend and close collaborator, lifelong Communist Party member, Juan Antonio Bardem—Berlanga was instrumental in the creation, firstly, of Altamira and then Uninci, the production company behind some of the most significant Spanish movies of the post-war period and which, in time, would produce Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (1961).

Keen to distance themselves from what they perceived as the backward, dogmatic, censored and often religious-based cinema required of them by the regime, Berlanga, Bardem and company were enthusiastic about the work of their counterparts in Italy. The screening of a series of movies during the 1951 Italian film week in Madrid came as a revelation to them.

While the impression that Italian neorealism caused upon these budding filmmakers is undeniable, the evidence of its influence in practical terms on Spanish cinema is negligible, and this is particularly so in the work of Berlanga. Many critics have sought to pigeon hole Berlanga into the convenient category of neorealism, partly because it has proved easier to construct him in this way, but also because it is a means by which to avoid serious exploration of Berlanga's complex relation with the Spanish literary and filmic tradition. The critical disjuncture surrounding Berlanga concerns his function as a popular filmmaker. As I have written elsewhere, Berlanga is often found situated at a problematic frontier between popular culture and cultural populism. (1) Berlanga's relationship with politics, moreover, is equally complicated and very often contradictory. While Bardem explicitly linked his politics to those of neorealism and sought to create an oppositional cinema both through his own films and magazines such as Objetivo (founded in 1953), Berlanga has consistently eluded categorisation. His refusal to share Bardem's militancy is coupled with his insistence that the subversive nature of his cinema belongs within a tradition of Spanish popular theatre known as sainete (2) that, although originating in the 18th century, reached its most powerful expression during the Second Republic.

In 1955 Berlanga and Bardem were present and decisive at a celebrated conference, known as the Conversaciones de Salamanca, organised by critic and director Basilio Martín Patino as an attempt to refocus the direction Spanish cinema was taking and to co-ordinate a dialogue between liberal elements within the state machinery (most notably the erstwhile head of cinema and theatre in the Ministry of Tourism and Information, José María García Escudero, who would hold the position on two different occasions in 1951 and 1962) and the moderately left opposition. It was Bardem's searing intervention in the course of the Conversaciones that has defined (and in my view misdefined) the entire generation. Bardem declared that Spanish cinema was, “politically ineffectual, socially false, intellectually poverty-stricken, aesthetically void and industrially stunted.”

In spite of Bardem's speech at the Salamanca conference, it is simply not the case that Spanish cinema prior to his work and that of Berlanga was exclusively a vehicle for the Dictatorship and its allies in the Catholic Church, even though such a view was common currency among critics until recently. Over the last decade new scholarship has demonstrated that relatively few Spanish movies of the immediate post-war period conformed to Bardem's caricature. Of the more than 500 films made in Spain between 1939 and 1951—the so-called period of autarky or cultural and economic self-sufficiency—less than 20 conform to this particular caricature. The vast majority of the nation's film production consisted of musicals, melodramas and popular comedies. Even the populist, albeit brutally repressive, Franco (himself a fan of cinema) acknowledged the need to make concessions. In the aftermath of the war, the Nationalist victors were conscious of the necessity of incorporating the bulk of the losing masses into their project. To this end, the horrors of the post-war period were coupled with cultural initiatives designed to elicit popular consent.

- Steven Marsh, Senses of Cinema Great Directors Biography