This year, at Cannes, the trials and tribulations on screen honoured Spanish cinematography with glory: Dolor y Gloria, Pedro Almodovar’s film, received the trophy for Best Actor thanks to Antonio Banderas’ monumental performance, Fire Will Come (O Que Arde) directed by Olivier Laxe – the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, while Albert Serra’s provoking Liberté got the Special Jury Prize in the same section.
These three films, among the most commented and acclaimed on the Croisette, are part of the Spanish Focus organized by Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest this year, with the support of Instituto Cervantes de Bucarest, Embassy of Spain in Romania, Point and and the Ramon Llull Institute. Albert Serra, the new rebel of Spanish cinematography (an intensely debated desigantion), will be guest of honour of the festival and will introduce a triptych of his works to the Romanian public: apart from Liberté, you can also see La mort de Louis XIV and Story of My Death.
Moreover, the focus, in a programme offered by Instituto Cervantes, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ film library, the European Union and the Cooperation with Spain, pays tribute not only to the talents of today, but also to the masters of yesterday, through a series of screenings of classic Spanish masterpieces presented at Cannes over the years: Viridiana, by Luis Buñuel, Cría cuervos by Carlos Saura, Bienvenido Mr. Marshall by Luis Garcia Berlanga and Los Santos Inocentes by Mario Camus.
In comparison with other great cinematographies, like the French, Italian or German ones, for instance, the Spanish one has been underestimated for a long time. Undoubtedly Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975) has a say in this situation, because he censored and repressed the greatest talents of the country for nearly four decades. However, paradoxically, the political regime fueled creativity, compelling filmmakers to get imaginative and subtle in the manner in which they expressed their ideas in order to lead the censorship astray. Franco’s death opened the way to a new generation of provokers, lead by the young bull, one moment furious, the other effusive – Pedro Almodóvar. The civil war, the dictatorship, the isolated cultural life imposed by an authoritarian regime brought forth the powerful tradition of subversive filmmakers that challenge the official “reality” and the status quo. Determined to confront hypocrisy and false appearances, filmmakers like Buñuel, Saura, Erice and, lately, Almodóvar or Serra create unique and distinctive works, a world where bourgeois values collapse, and the pretense of good manners, political maneuvers and social courtesy are all blown up. Spanish auteur cinema refused the hollywoodian model and the chase after old and recyclable clichés, all to become one of the most vibrant and iconoclastic contributions to modern culture. Adamant, but also saracastical films: ”I always use humor, even in my more dramatic movies,” Almodóvar said in an interview for the New York Times. ”This is very typical of Spain, this kind of black humor, even in the worst moments. You could say it’s part of our national character.” As these senior and novel artists demonstrate, Spain never lacks institutional targets to be subjected to satire: the army, the family, the Catholic Church, the aristocracy.
Another vein in Spanish cinema is the surreal one. About Fire Will Come, Variety wrote at Cannes: ”You know exactly what climax is coming in Oliver Laxe’s rustically beautiful rural parable, but its dreamy, mesmeric power lies in the waiting. An exactingly paced slow burn before it becomes, well, a very fast one, this second feature from the Franco-Spanish filmmaker confirms all the poised formal promise of “You Are All Captains” and “Mimosas,” while bringing greater depth and generosity of human observation to his rich, abundant mood-harvesting. Following the daily travails of a convicted pyromaniac as he attempts to resettle in his family farmstead, “Fire Will Come” may have limited commercial potential, but its appearance in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar — where it deservedly won the runner-up Jury Prize, following “Mimosas’” 2016 Critics’ Week triumph — represents another step toward major auteur status for its unobtrusively gifted helmer.”
Albert Sierra – special guest of honour of the Spanish Focus section at Les Films de Cannes a Bucarest
“I’m not interested in forcing a meaning onto a filmic story. In fact I’d even rather the audience know more than I do about the meaning of my films”, says Albert Serra, an artist and filmmaker whose vibrant and provoking films take inspiration from art history and literature, and are, according to the critics, a continuous violence to the retina. Thus, the filmmaker wants us to pose the question of what we can or canot accept in a work of art. Born in Spain, in 1975, Serra studied literature and and art history at the University of Barcelona. Liberté stirred up quite a fuss, managing to rouse a scandal at Cannes, a festival that seemed impenetrable to challenge, and was compared to Passolini’s Salo. Sites like Mubi deemed it to be part of the category of rare adventurous, exciting and transgressive films that send us in the search of the right terms to describe them and that challenge our standards. This „transcendental minimalist” is a rara avis that makes films border on the acceptable, and not to collect awards (and, sometimes, this is exactly why it receives them).
The three films that will sketch out a portrait of the auteur and at the end of which there will be discussions with the director are:
Story of My Death / Història de la meva mort – it will be screened on 21st October, at Instituto Cervantes.
Casanova meets his new maid, who will witness his last days alive, at a castle in Transylvania. Film shot on location in Romania and awarded with the Golden Leopard in 2013, at the Locarno Film Festival. „One vanishing roué’s tragedy is another’s comedy in Serra’s cerebral anti-period piece, a string of captivating-lugubrious digital compositions with a lambent natural light that progressively darkens, as if wrapped more and more within the Transylvanian Count’s cape” – Fernando F. Croce, Mubi
La mort de Louis XIV – it will be screened on 22nd October, at Elvire Popesco cinema.
Returned from hunting, Louis XIV feels an agonizing pain in his leg, forcing him to remain in bed at Versailles. It is the beginning of the slow death of the greatest French sovereign. „The Death of Louis XIV is a true film object. It doesn’t take you on a journey. It’s not a window on the world. It doesn’t care what you think any more than a stone would. Film history merges with actual history in Albert Serra’s memento mori”, Film Comment declares.
Liberté – it will be screened on 23rd October, at Elvire Popesco cinema.
Right before the French Revolution, a group of libertines lead by the duchess of Valselay run away from Louis XVI’s conservative government in Germany. Their goal? To export libertinage, a philosophy based on the refusal of morality and authority. It’s the beginning of some daring encounters. „An indecent, shameless/shameful art film that—honestly, who am I to say isn’t a masterpiece?”, one can read Blake Williams’ reaction, in Filmaker magazine.
Viridiana – directed by Luis Buñuel, Palme d’Or, Cannes 1961
Franco’s ghost haunts the entire Spanish cinema and, in Luis Buñuel’s case, he makes the famous rebellious filmmakers even more willing to shock, clamor and scandalize. After the years in exile because of the fascist regime, he returns to Spain, in 1960, in order to shoot Viridiana, a film strewn with deviations, ménage a trois and blasphemous reenactments of The Last Supper, which was banned in Spain up intil the dictator’s death. Nowadays, we are immune to such taboos, but the extremely cynical perspective of the auteur remains fortifying.
Bienvenido Mr Marshall – directed by Luis Garcia Berlanga, International Prize and Special Jury Mentionat Cannes, 1953
This comedy makes use of a fictional application of the Marshall plan in Spain in order to lavishly satirize the simplistic, stereotypical manner in which citizens of different countries – in this case, Spanish and American citizens – perceive each other. The film manages not only to appeal to the public, but also to be subversive, as is the case with all Spanish cinema, it ventures to a surreal territory, with some memorable oneiric sequences.
Cría cuervos – directed by Carlos Saura, Grand Jury Prize, Cannes 1976
Few child actors had the chance to star in not one, but two national masterpieces before reaching the age of 11. Ana Torrent accomplished exactly that, when filmmaker Carlos Saura cast her in the aforementioned film, along with Geraldine Chaplin, after he saw her in The Spirit of the Beehive. Just as that film, Cría cuervos is an enigmatic drama, that places children in a domestic setting so as to allegorically comment on the abandonment of the youth by Franco’s regime.
Los Santos Inocentes – directed by Mario Camus (Best Actor ex-aequo awarded to Francisco Rabal and Alfredo Landa, and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, at Cannes, 1984)
The film blard up admiration on part of the critics for the extremely realist way in which it illustrated the day-to-day life of the lower class, awfully poor, in the Extremadura region, during Franco’s regime. Based on a novel by Miguel Delibes, it is now considered one of the best films about dictatorship.
Keep up to date with the latest news regarding the 2019 edition of Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest, on the official website filmedefestival.ro and on the official Facebook page.
Tickets will be available to the public starting 1st October on Eventbook.ro.
Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest is presented by Orange Romania, a traditional partner of the event.
Official Car of the Festival: Renault.
With the support of: Catena, Apa Nova, Groupama Asigurări.
The tenth edition of Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest is organized by the Cinemascop Association and Voodoo Films, in partnership with Embassy of France and the French Institute in Bucharest.
Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest is a cultural project financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, the National Centre of Cinematography, and and realized with the support of SACD / Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques.
Partners: Air France, KLM, The Romanian Cultural Institute, Europa Cinemas, Hotel Mercure, SERVE, UPS, Eventbook.
Media partners: Radio România Cultural, Elle, Zile și Nopți, Cinemap, News.ro, Agerpres, Observator Cultural, Igloo, Banchiza Urbană.