Bienvenido Mister Marshall (1953)

The Marshall Plan is coming! The Marshall Plan is coming! ¡Viene el Plan Marshall! ¡Viene el Plan Marshall! 

How, or when? We don’t know, but in Bienvenido Mr. Marshall, from Spanish director Luis García Berlanga, the residents of Villar del Río are anxiously awaiting the post-war aid from the United States. ¿Cómo? ¿Cuándo? Nadie sabe, pero en Bienvenido Mr. Marshall, de director español Luis García Berlanga, los habitantes de Villar del Río están esperando la ayuda de posguerra de los EEUU. 

When the mayor of Villar del Río (and not del Campo) hears about the US Americans coming to help them out, the entire village decides to go all out in preparing their village to welcome the visitors. The residents are full of hopes and dreams about what the Marshall Plan might mean for them. They try to make the town more andaluz, as that’s what people expected from Spain (and a criticism of tourists who think all of Spain is only Andalucía). And in the end, spoiler alert, the Americans speed on by the village. Cuando el alcalde de Villar del Río (y no del Campo) se entera de que los estadounidenses van a ayudar su pueblo, todo el pueblo decide hacer todo lo posible para preparar el pueblo para dar una bienvenida especial. Los habitantes tienen sueños y esperanzas de que puede significar el Plan Marshall para ellos. Intentan hacer el pueblo más andaluz, como es lo que el resto del mundo espera de España (y una critica de los turistas que piensan que Andalucía representa todo el país. Al final, SPOILER, los estadounidenses pasan por el pueblo a toda velocidad. 

The film is an awesome commentary on stereotypes and postwar USA and Spain. It explored what the Spanish thought of each other and about the yankis and how a country feels it must present itself to the world. La película es un comentario genial de estereotipos y España y EEUU posguerra. Explora que piensan los españoles en el resto de su país y como los españoles piensan en los yankis y también como un país cree que debería presentarse al resto del mundo. 

I’m usually against remakes; however, I think with the right director and screenwriter, a remake about the current situation in Spain and United States would be worthwhile. Suelo estar de contra los remakes. Sin embargo, creo que con un(a) director(a) y guionista adecuado/a, un remake sobre la situación actual en España y EEUU valdría la pena. 

In 1996, the film was voted the fifth best Spanish film in history. It has been declared a Bien de Interés CulturalFue elegida como la quinta película de la historia de cine español y fue declardo un Bien de Interés Cultural.

The film was co-written with Juan Antonio Bardem and Miguel Mihura. It stars Fernando Rey as the Narrator and features Lolita Sevilla, Manolo Morán, José Isbert, Alberto Romea, and Elvira Quintillá, among others. Berlanga escribió el guión con Juan Antonio Bardem y Miguel Mihura. Los actores incluyen Fernando Rey como el Narrador, Lolita Sevilla, Manolo Morán, José Isbert, Alberto Romea y Elvira Quintillá. 

Rating: A


Spanish Director Spotlight: Juan Antonio Bardem

The Spanish have a tendency to badmouth their own cinema, but they have so many stellar classics among their bad movies that they overlook. They only see the big budget action flicks and the Oscar movies from the States and are envious of the Hollywood films. They forget about the horrid movies that bomb every week from the US. Spanish Cinema may not be as famous as French or Italian cinema, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Quite the contrary.

Originally I was going to write about two classic Spanish films this week. Little did I know they had something in common: Juan Antonio Bardem. He was the screenwriter for Bienvenido Mister Marshall! (1953) and directed Calle Mayor (1956).

Juan Antonio Bardem (sometimes credited as J.A. Bardem) was born in Madrid in 1922 and died in 2002. The uncle of Javier Bardem was very critical of the Franco regime and was arrested while filming Calle Mayor in Palencia for his communist views and criticism of Franco. He was later released on the condition that he would not talk about his views during interviews. He also directed La Venganza (Vengeance) and Muerte de una ciclista (Death of a Cyclist), which I still have yet to see.

When finding out I come from the United States, many Spaniards mention Bienvenido Mister Marshall. The small village of Villar del Río is waiting for help from the United States Marshall Plan after the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The town goes out of their way to promote themselves as the best representative of Spain (also mocking how Spain was promoting the Andalusian stereotype of flamenco dancers and matadores as all of Spain at the time). They keep waiting…and waiting…for their rescue (a metaphor of Spain waiting for rescue from Franco’s regime?) . The film is a brilliant critique of Spain (that passed the censors!) and the United States at the same time without being offensive to either.

Calle Mayor is a bit different but still holds up as a classic of Spanish cinema. Two friends are in any pueblo (town/village) in the provinces of Spain (filmed in Palencia, Cuenca and Logroño) where the only thing to do is walk along the Calle Mayor (Main Street) in the evening. They come across Isabel, a “spinster” (at 35? Whatever! Times have changed) who doesn’t believe she’ll ever get married. They decide to play a trick on her and convince her that Juan is in love with her and wants to marry her. You bastard! The film is a social commentary and captures life in the small towns of Spain during the early Franco regime perfectly.

These two classic films offer a bit more insight into Spain’s past, and Juan Antonio Bardem deserves more credit. I’m excited to explore the world of his films…however, it’ll have to wait as I already have plans to delve into the world of another director first…