París-Tombuctú (1999).

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The last film of Valencian director Luis García Berlanga, París-Tombuctú, is an homage of sort to his entire career. La última película de director valenciano Luis García Berlanga, París-Tombuctú, es algo de homenaje de su carrera completa. 

Michel Piccoli is Michel des Assants, a Paris plastic surgeon who is suicidal because he is impotent. At the last minute, instead of committing suicide, he decides to cycle to Timbuktu. He has an accident near Calabuch, once again played perfectly by Peñíscola, and becomes enchanted by the crazy characters that live there on the eve of the millennium. Michel Piccoli es Michel des Assants, un cirujano plástico de París quien está contemplando suicido porque es impotente. En el último moment, en lugar de suicidarse, tiene un cambio de mente y decide ciclar a Tombuctú. Sufre un accidente de bici cerca de Calabuch, una vez más interpretado a perfección por Peñíscola. Le fascinan los personajes locos que vivien allí en la víspera del milenio. 

Gone are the annoying rich politicians of his normal post-Franco films. Instead, we’re seeing what Berlanga does best: show the lives of the people who live in pueblo Spain. While it doesn’t reach the heights of his films from the 1950s and 60s, it’s still a fun viewing experience. It doesn’t have a strong cohesive plot but instead offers Berlanga’s typical characters being themselves. Sometimes, that’s all you need. En lugar de los políticos ricos pesados de las películas de Berlanga de su época pos-Franco, tenemos lo mejor de Berlanga, una mirada a las vidas de los personajes que vivien en los pueblos españoles. Aunque no es tan buena como sus películas del años 1950s y 1960s, es una película divertida. No hay ningún argumento cohesivo pero nos ofrece los personajes de Berlanga siendo ellos mismos. A veces, no hace falta más de eso. 

Warning. Several of those typical characters prefer being nude. Un aviso: Muchos de los personajes prefieren estar desnudos. 

Concha Velasco fought hard for her role as Trini because it was her dream to work with Berlanga. Amparo Soler Leal, Santiago Segura, Manuel Alexandre, Juan Diego and Luis Ciges are some of the other actors featured in the film. Concha Velasco luchó bastante para tener el papel de Trini porque era un sueño colaborar con Berlanga. También salen actores como Amparo Soler Leal, Santiago Segura, Manuel Alexandre, Juan Diego y Luis Ciges. 

Berlanga wrote the script with his son, Jorge Berlanga and Antonio Gómez Rufo and Javier G. Amezua.  Berlanga escribió el guión con su hijo Jorge Berlanga y también Antonio Gómez Rufo y Javier G. Amezua. 

Rating: B+

Calabuch (1956)

Mr. Marshall has arrived, and he’s relocated to paradise…Peñíscola! Er, I mean…Calabuch. Mr. Marshall ha llegado, y se ha traslado al paraíso…¡Peñíscola! Quiero decir…Calabuch. 

In Calabuch (The Rocket from Calabunch), the 1956 Spanish film from Valencian director Luis García Berlanga, an American scientist is looking to get away from it all. En Calabuch, la película española de 1956 del director valenciano Luis García Berlanga, un científico norteamericano está buscando escapar a una vida nueva. 

Dr. George Hamilton (Edmund Gwenn) is a scientist who has been working with atomic bombs and such. Calabuch, a beautiful and peaceful coastal Mediterranean village, is exactly what he needs to disappear for a while. He settles into the town and becomes one of their own, even helping them with the annual fireworks competition. The fireworks clue in the authorities to his whereabouts. Will he go back to his work creating weapons of mass destruction? Dr. George Hamilton (Edmund Gwenn) es un científico quien estaba trabajando con bombas atómicas y tal. Calabuch, un pueblo precioso y tranquilo del Mediterráneo, es lo que le hace falta para desaparecer durante un rato. Se integra en el pueblo y se hace uno de ellos, incluso dando su ayuda con el concurso de castillos de fuegos artificiales. Los fuegos ayudan a las autoridades saber donde está Dr. Jorge Hamilton. ¿Va a volver a su trabajo de crear armas de destrucción masiva? 

The film is a satire of post-war Spanish life and idealizes Spain as paradise. (Umm, don’t I do that myself?) But nothing is as it seems, and the Cold War was reaching everywhere. La película es una sátira de la vida española posguerra y idealiza España como paraíso. (Ey…¿No lo hago yo mismo?) Pero nada es como parece, y la Guerra Fría estaba presente en todos los sitios. 

While recognising the film as important to Spanish cinema and among Berlanga’s works, I have to admit that I was a bit distracted due to my boredom. However, I am starting to see how Berlanga’s work can be seen together as a whole and recurring themes in just his fourth film. He’s not a fan of military, and he works with what he can with the strict Spanish censorship of the time to criticize and comment on Spanish society. It’s more fascinating to see how the puzzle pieces all fit together in his oeuvre. Aunque reconozco que la película es importante para cine español y dentro de las obras de Berlanga, he de admitir que estaba distraído porque me aburrí un poco. Sin embargo, estoy empezando a ver como las obras individuales de Berlanga pueden combinar para formar su carrera y temas recurrentes en solo su cuatra película. No le gusta los militares, y hace lo que pueda para criticar y comentar de la sociedad española con la censura española de la época. Me fascina más ver como las piezas combinan para completar el puzle. 

The film was shot in Peñíscola in the north of the Comunitat Valenciana. Berlanga helped Leonardo Martín with the script, along with Florentino Soria and Ennio Flaiano. It was a co-production with Italy. Rodó la película en Peñíscola en el norte de la Comunitat Valenciana. Berlanga ayudó a Leornado Martín con el guion. También contribuyeron Florentino Soria y Ennio Flaiano. Era un co-producción con Italia. 

Rating: B-

Castellón, that other Valencian province.

Although the Comunitat Valenciana has three provinces, it’s usually the provinces of Valencia and Alicante that get all the attention. Valencia is the capital and third largest city in the Iberian Peninsula and  it’s the province that has Bunyol, home of the famous Tomatina festival, among other great places. Alicante is home to Benidorm, which is trying to outdo Las Vegas as being the most artificial place on the planet, home to a lot of palm trees and a Christian versus Moors festival. At a guess, I’d say Alicante has more British people than Great Britain. Castellón is just one of the two random provinces of the Mediterranean that seperate Valencia and Barcelona (Tarragona is the other). Castellón is also the province where I worked 10 months in during 2010-2011 while I lived in Valencia (the village was actually closer to Valencia capital than Castellón capital.)

Castellón has a lot of unspoiled beauty (and an infamous airport that may never be used, but that’s neither hear nor there.) It has a lot of beautiful beaches, and it is also home to some beautiful mountains. Like Valencia, it has 300 days of sun a year but is a lot less touristy. While the capital city is nothing to write home about, the rest of the province makes a great holiday destination.

Set Meravelles

Peñíscola

  Peñíscola

Peñíscola reminds me of a San Sebastián-Donostia, only smaller and even more quaint and precious. It even has its own film festival. Located almost in Catalunya, Peñíscola is so charming and beautiful that various films, including El Cid, have been filmed here. Although it is considered one of the most beautiful “pueblos” (villages) in  Spain with a population of 8000 people, it’s technically a city thanks to Felipe V in the War of Spanish Succession. During the time of two popes, the Pope Benedict XIII (Papa de Luna) called the castle in Peñíscola his home. Although I was only here once on an excursion with my school, Peñíscola remains one of my favourite pueblos in all of Spain.

Morella

morella 2

moralla 1

Morella is one of the hardest to reach villages I have ever been to, but I was not about to leave Comunitat Valenciana without visiting this medieval jewel. I had to wake up super early to take the Cercanías train to Castellón and then catch an early bus to Morella that took about two hours. It went through some of the most rural landscapes of País Valencia.  The village (which has less than 3000 people living there) is built into a hill with a castle on the top and conserves its medieval streets and feel. Valenciano is definitely the language of the streets here, but they don’t mind if you speak Spanish. (I tried my valenciano, of course!) Every six years, they celebrate a Sexenni festival. Last celebrated in 2012, these festivals originally began to celebrate the fact that a statute of the Virgin Mary drove the black plague from the village.

Segorbe

segorbe

Segorbe is a nice little village of 9000 people located between Valencia capital and Teruel, and I highly recommend stopping here along the way. There isn’t a lot to see, but there are some beautiful views if you’re wanting to climb. If you’re going by bus, however, I strongly urge you to ask the bus driver just where to catch the bus back to Valencia to avoid any confusion. I speak from experience after having unexpectedly to stay the night there because everyone in the town told me a different story about where to catch the bus to Valencia! I still think it’s a nice little village.

Coves de Sant Josep

Although La Vall d’Uixò seems like a sleepy little place, the small city does feature something incredible:  The Saint Joseph Caves! These caves feature a navegable river around 5 km long. The Caves are some of the coolest I’ve seen, and I grew up visiting Mammoth Cave. The Coves de Sant Josep are definitely not as big, but there are worth a visit.

Villareal, the football (soccer) club that could

Villareal is a small city of 50,000 people that is like so many Spanish cities of its size. Industrial and not much to write home about. However, they do have one thing they can boast about. Their football team. In 1998, this small football club made its way to La Liga, the big boys, and found themselves playing against teams like the putrid, horrible Real Madrid and the amazing, awesome and fantastic Barcelona FC and València. (What? I’m not bias! Really!) Although they’ve made a few return visits to Second Division, they always find their way back to Primera División, where I think they belong. They’ve even made it to Champions a few times. I got the chance to visit their stadium, El Madrigal, to see them defeat Malaga. Amunt Vila-real!

Benicàssim (Yet to be truly discovered)

Benicàssim is a coastal village that attracts many Spanish tourists due to its beaches and music festivals. It’s located just 13 kilometres (7 miles) from the Castellón capital. It offers something for everyone, from hiking and biking trails to the beautiful beaches. I hope to visit soon.

Vilafamés

25 kilometres (15 miles) from Castellón de la Plana, Vilafamés is another medieval mountain village with beautiful buildings, ermitas and a castle. It doesn’t have quite the fame as Morella, but it looks amazingly beautiful, and I’m going to have to make a visit there on my next trip to Castellón. As much as I try, there are just too many beautiful places in every part of Spain to be able to visit them all. That doesn’t stop me from trying!