A short history of Spanish cinema

स्पैनिश सिनेमा से परिचित हो लें ...आधे से एक घंटे में....

Beyond Buñuel, Spanish film-makers struggled to make an international impact – until Franco's death in 1975 liberated an entire generation


Spain embraced the new medium of cinema at the turn of the century as fervently as any of their European counterparts; this film of a religious procession in 1902, by the splendidly named Fructuos Gelabert, is typical of the early amateurs.

In Segundo de Chomón, however, Spain produced a trickster director
to rival France's Georges Méliès.

De Chomón worked mostly in France, and even made An Excursion to the Moon, his own version of Méliès's most famous film.

The route from Spain to France was well-trodden by the time Buñuel and Dalí made Un Chien Andalou in 1928; otherwise, little of Spain's silent-film output made any impact internationally.

The early sound period fared little better, as political convulsions in the run-up to the civil war made a settled industry difficult.

After L'Age d'Or (1930), his second French film, Buñuel returned to Spain to make Land Without Bread (1933), a surrealist parody-documentary about poverty-stricken peasants in Extremadura. After making España 1936, a Republican-distributed documentary about the war, Buñuel was off again, this time to the US.

Outside Buñuel, however, Spanish film-makers struggled to make an
international impact. Antonio Nieves Conde borrowed Italian neorealism to film Surcos (1951), chronicling a family's struggles to make ends meet in Madrid.

Bienvenido Mr Marshall (1953) was a comedy about Spanish-American misunderstandings. And Sara Montiel had a big ht in El Último Cuplé
(1957), after returning from a short spell in Hollywood.

Rafael Rivelles and Juan Calvo starred together as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in 1947, and were reunited for Marcelino Bread and Wine in 1955, which won a couple of small prizes at the Cannes film festival of that year.

The story of a super-cute kid who dies a lachrymose death was a proper international success, and marked the breakthrough role for Fernando Rey, one of Spain's most significant cinematic properties in the 50s and 60s. Rey began a profitable partnership with Buñuel with Viridiana (1961), an anticlerical satire that was promptly banned by Franco, and won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

The Mexican connection was just about the only outlet for much of Spain's film-making energy. Mexican-set westerns would provide a Hollywood home for Montiel – in Vera Cruz (1954), she is billed as "temptress... and tease!"

Buñuel moved there in 1949 and took Mexican citizenship. Los Olvidados (1950), set in the Mexico City slums, marked a new beginning for him, and he went on to make, among others, El (1953), The Exterminating Angel (1962) and Simon of the Desert (1953).

The movement was reversed when the spaghetti western craze took off in the late 50s. Almost invariably set in Mexico, films such as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) were largely shot in southern Spain and provided a decent living for local technicians...

...as did the increasing number of Hollywood productions: the attack on Aqaba in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was filmed in a Spanish riverbed.

Self-inspecting Spanish cinema didn't return until the rise of the "new cinema" of the 1960s. But Spain's continuing political isolation under Franco meant that it failed to participate fully in the European new waves, and remained relentlessly minor key. Carlos Saura's The Hunt (1966) was a subtly veiled allegory of Spanish fascism's latent aggression; it won a major award at Berlin.

Another critique of the Franco era came with Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), in which a small girl becomes obsessed with Frankenstein.

Franco's death in 1975 liberated an entire generation: led by the transgressive comedies of Pedro Almodóvar, Spanish cinema set about reinventing itself from the ground up. Almodóvar eventually hit international paydirt with Law of Desire (1987) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), which also propelled Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas into the international spotlight.

Bigas Luna filmed the first encounter of Penelope Cruz and Javier
Bardem in Jamon Jamon (1991), symbolising Spain's fresh new sexiness.

Fernando Trueba won an Oscar for Belle Epoque (1992).

In Barcelona, the avant gardist Vicente Aranda hit his stride withAmantes (1991). With Vacas (1992), Julio Medem put Basque cinema on the map.

A new generation has grown up since then, cine-literate and particularly interested in horror and fantasy. Alejandro Amenábar had a huge hit with the English-language The Others (2001).

Mexican-born Guillermo del Toro made arguably the greatest Spanish film of the last decade: Pan's Labyrinth (2006), which took its cue from The Spirit of the Beehive in its child's-eye view of the civil war.

Del Toro sponsored another masterwork of Spanish creepiness, Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage (2007).

In short, Spanish cinema may not have the back catalogue of France and Germany, but is arguably stronger than either right now.

Comments

Yayaver said…
Agora and Mar Adentro of Alejandro Amenábar were two good Spanish movies of recent times. Overall thanks for such summarised history.
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