Alex de la Iglesia, a profile.

I debated whether or not to continue highlighting Spanish directors. In the end, although I know they’re not extremely popular entries, it’s a side project that I enjoy and gives me something to focus on in the Bilbao rain. Lo he pensando, si iba a seguir con escribir sobre directores españoles. Al final, aunque sé no son las entradas más populares del blog, es un proyecto que disfruto y me da algo de hacer en la lluvia “sirimiri” de Bilbao que no cesa. 

I toyed with highlighting Luis Buñuel, and I also thought about highlighting one of my favourite actress and the ultimate Chica Almodóvar, Carmen Maura. In the end, those projects are saved for a later time. Pensaba en escribir sobre Luis Buñuel, y también he pensando en escribir sobre Carmen Maura, una de mis actrices preferidas y la mítica Chica Almodóvar. Al final, he aplazado eses proyectos para después.

As my time in Bilbao is most likely drawing to a close, I decided to highlight a director from the Capital of the World, Álex de la Iglesia. Pedro Almodóvar produced his first film, Acción Mutante, in 1993. However, in many ways, de la Iglesia is Almodóvar’s exact opposite. Como creo que la hora de marcharme de Bilbao, decidí escribir sobre un director de la Capital del Mundo, Álex de la Iglesia. Pedro Almodóvar produjo si primera película, Acción Mutante, en 1993. Sin embargo, en muchas maneras, de la Iglesia es el contrario de Almodóvar.

While Almodóvar would be seen as John Waters meets Stanley Kubrick crossed with Fellini, de la Iglesia can be seen as a grotesque Kevin Smith meets a grotesque Michael Bay, but a Bay that has a modicum of talent. Almodóvar is from the bright, shiny word of Metropolis and de la Iglesia is from the dark, gritty world of Gotham (albeit Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher’s version of Gotham, not Christopher Nolan’s.) Mientras Almodóvar sería un John Waters mezclado con Stanley Kubrick mezclado con Fellini, de la Iglesia es un Kevin Smith grosero mezclado con un Michael Bay grosero, pero un Bay que tiene algo de talento. Almodóvar viene del mundo brillante y asoleado de Metropolis, y de la Iglesias es del mundo gris, oscuro y áspero de Gotham (pero quiero decir el Gotham de Tim Burton o Joel Schumacher y no el Gotham de Christopher Nolan.) 

Álex de la Iglesia was born on 4 December 1965 in Bilbao, the capital of the world. He studied philosophy at the Universidad de Deusto in Bilbao, and after university and a brief stint in television, he began working as a production designer for films. Almodóvar took note of a short film de la Iglesia made with his friend José Guerricaechevarria, Mirindas Asesinas, in 1991 and produced de la Iglesia’s first feature-length film, Acción Mutante. Álex de la Iglesia nació el 4 de diciembre 1965 en Bilbao, la capital del mundo. Estudió filosofía en la Universidad de Deusto en Bilbao. Después de la universidad y un trabajo breve en televisón, empezó a trabajar como un diseñador de producción de películas. Un corte de Álex de la Iglesia que hizo con su amigo José Guerricaechevarria, Mirindas Asesinas, llamó la atención de Almodóvar en 1991, y el director famoso produjo el primer cortolargo del bilbaíno, Acción Mutante

He tried to make it in Hollywood with Perdita Durango, but he was closely compared with Tarantino and the film didn’t meet much success. He returned to Spain where his films have been successful, sometimes both at the box office and critically, sometimes only one or the other. Después, de la Iglesia intentó en Hollywood con Perdita Durango, pero la película era considera demasiada “posTarantino” y no recibió mucho éxito en la taquilla. Volvió a España donde ha tenido bastante éxito, a veces en ambos la taquilla y con los críticos, a veces con solo uno o el otro. 

He has directed 14 films as of 2016, has received various nominations for the Goya (Spain’s Oscar) and won once for Best Director for El Día de la Bestia in 1995. Hasta 2016, ha dirigido 14 películas y ha recibido varias nominciones de las Goyas. Ganó la Goya por Mejor Director en 1994 por El día de la Bestia

While I am not as familiar with his work as I am Almodóvar, I have seen a few Álex de la Iglesia films. I’m no expert, so I won’t do a weekly checklist, but I will try to grow with each entry and look for what makes the Basque director tick. I hope you join me for this journey! Aunque no soy tan familiar con su carrera como soy con la carrera de Almodóar, he visto algunas películas del director vasco. No soy tan experto para hacer un checklist, pero intenteré crecer con cada entrada de blog y mirar lo que hace el director vasco único. Espero que os guste el proyecto de la Iglesia. 

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…