Carlos Saura - Director

Nationality: Spanish. Born: Huesca, 4 January 1932. Education: Studied filmmaking at Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencas Cinematográficos (IIEC), Madrid, 1952–57. Career: Professional photographer, 1950–53; teacher at IIEC, from 1957, left for political reasons, 1964; directed first feature, Los golfos , 1960. Awards: Silver Bear, Berlin Festival, for La caza , 1966, and Peppermint frappé , 1968; Special Jury Award, Cannes Festival, for La prima Angelica , 1974, and Cria cuervos , 1976; Golden Bear, Berlin Festival, for Hurry, Hurry , 1981. Address: Iberoamericana Films, Velazquez 12, Madrid 28001.

Films as Director and Scriptwriter:


La tarde del domingo ( Sunday Afternoon ) (short)


Cuenca (short)


Los golfos ( The Hooligans ) (+ role)


Llanto por un bandido ( Lament for a Bandit )


La caza ( The Hunt ; The Chase )


Peppermint frappé


Stress es tres, tres ( Stress Is Three, Three )


La madriguera ( The Honeycomb ; The Net )


El jardĂ­n de las delicias ( The Garden of Delights )


Ana y los lobos ( Ana and the Wolves )


La prima Angélica ( Cousin Angelica )


Cria cuervos ( Raise Ravens )


Elisa, vida mĂ­a ( Elisa, My Love )


Los ojos vendados ( Blindfold )


Mamá cumple cien años ( Mama Turns One Hundred )


Deprisa, deprisa ( Hurry, Hurry )


Dulces horas ( Sweet Hours ); Bodas de sangre ( Blood Wedding )






Los zancos ( The Stilts )


El amor brujo ( Love the Magician )


El dorado


La noche oscura ( The Dark Night )


Ay! Carmela


Sevillanas ; Marathon


Dispara! ( Shoot! )




Taxi (d only)


Esa luz!


Pajarico ; Tango


Goya en Burdeos ( Goya in Bordeaux )


By SAURA: articles—

Interviews with E. BrasĂł, in Positif (Paris), May and October 1974.

Interview with G. Braucourt, in Thousand Eyes (New York), October 1976.

Interview with M. Capdenac and others, in Ecran (Paris), July 1977.

"El cumpleaños de Saura," interview with J.L. Guerin, in Cinema 2002 (Madrid), January 1980.

"Carlos Saura: bodas de prisa," interview with M. Pereira, in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 99, 1981.

Interview with Nick Roddick in Stills (London), September/October 1983.

"Brief an ein kind auf der treppe," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 12, no 1., 1984.

"Die Rueckkehr nach Spanien," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 12, no. 1, 1984.

"Toda Espanola en Saura," an interview with M.E. Gilio, in Cine Cubano (Habana), no. 134, 1992.

"Carlos Saura w Londynie," interview in Kino (Warsaw), July 1993.

On SAURA: books—

BrasĂł, Enrique, Carlos Saura , Madrid, 1974.

Gubern, Roman, Homenaje a Carlos Saura , Huelva, 1979.

Arnold, Frank, and others, Carlos Saura , Munich, 1981.

Oms, Marcel, Carlos Saura , Paris, 1981.

Eichenlaub, Hans M., Carlos Saura , Freiburg, 1984.

Hopewell, John, Out of the Past: Spanish Cinema after Franco , London, 1986.

Higginbotham, Virginia, Spanish Film under Franco , Austin, Texas, 1988.

Vidal, Agustin Sanchez, El cine de Carlos Saura , Zaragoza, 1988.

D'Lugo, Marvin, The Films of Carlos Saura: The Practice of Seeing , Princeton, New Jersey, 1991.

On SAURA: articles—

" Anne et des loups Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), November 1974.

" Cria cuervos Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 October 1978.

Kinder, Marcia, "Carlos Saura: The Political Development of Individual Consciousness," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley, California), no. 3, 1979.

Kovács, Katherine, "Loss and Recuperation in The Garden of Delights ," in Cine-Tracts (Montreal), Summer/Fall 1981.

Tate, S., "Carlos Saura, Spain, and Mama Turns One Hundred ," in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), April 1982.

Bartholomew, G., "The Development of Carlos Saura," in Journal of Film and Video (Carbondale, Illinois), Summer 1983.

D'Lugo, M., "Carlos Saura: Constructive Imagination in Post-Franco Cinema," in Quarterly Review of Film Studies (New York), Spring 1983.

Carlos Saura (right) on the set of Ay! Carmela
Carlos Saura (right) on the set of Ay! Carmela

Kinder, Marcia, "The Children of Franco in the New Spanish Cinema," in Quarterly Review of Film Studies (New York), Spring 1983.

Insdorf, Annette, " Soñar con tus ojos : Carlos Saura's Melodic Cinema," in Quarterly Review of Film Studies (New York), Spring 1983.

Clarens, Carlos, "Is There Film after Buñuel?" in Village Voice (New York), 6 January 1984.

Hernandez, V., "Lectura e interpretacion, el contexto y la referencia en el cine de Carlos Saura," in Contracampo (Madrid), Winter 1984.

Schumacher, E., "Saura's New Film Returns to Flamenco," in New York Times , 15 December 1985.

Rabal, F., "Freund meiner Freund," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 14, no. 7, 1986.

Hopewell, John, "Mr. Carlosawa: Carlos Saura at the National Film Theatre," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1986.

Hunter, A., "A Spanish Point of View," in Films and Filming (London), September 1986.

"Carlos Saura Joins with Gomez on Ambitious $5.5-mil El Dorado ," in Variety (New York), 22 October 1986.

D'Lugo, Marvin, "Historical Reflexivity: Carlos Saura's Anti- Carmen ," in Wide Angle (Baltimore, Maryland), vol. 9, no. 3, 1987.

Moore, L., "Can Saura Save Olympic Epic?," in Variety (New York), 31 August 1992.

Helman, Alicja, "Czar pewnego imienia," in Kino (Warsaw), July-August 1994.

Landrot, Marine, "La griffe espagnole," in Télérama (Paris), 8 February 1995.

Arumi, E., "Goya, artista revolucionario y su influencia en el cine," in Film-Historia (Barcelona), no. 3, 1996.

Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 6, 1996.

* * *

Over the past three decades, Carlos Saura has attained international stature while exploring quintessentially Spanish themes. Saura was one of the first Spanish filmmakers to deal with the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. In several films he explored the impact of the war years and of the postwar period on the men and women of his generation, those who were born in the 1930s and who suffered emotional and psychological damage that affected them well into their adult years. In a number of movies, we witness the efforts of Saura's adult protagonists to resurrect their past memories in order to come to terms with them once and for all. In the course of their recollections, we see the negative effects not only of the war, but also of the repressive system of education and of the confining family structures that were consolidated by the triumph of Franco in the postwar period.

Until Franco's death in 1975, it was not possible to express this viewpoint openly. Films were censored first at the script stage and again upon completion. Nothing controversial was allowed. Even in the 1960s, a period of liberalization when some experimentation was allowed and the New Spanish Cinema movement was born, Saura and the other young directors associated with this movement walked a delicate and difficult line, trying to convey their ideas while avoiding the hurdles imposed by the censor.

It was in this atmosphere that Saura developed his cinematic style and method of working. In order to deal with taboo subjects, he (and the other young directors of that time) resorted to tactics of allusion, association, and allegory. In one of Saura's first movies, The Hunt , a hunting party arranged by four former comrades-in-arms under Franco is used to represent the legacy of the Civil War and the moral bankruptcy it has engendered. In other movies, Saura destroys the chronological sequence of events in order to show the impact of the past and its continued importance in explaining the present. Actions and events taking place in the present often recall or evoke corresponding past moments, and Saura's protagonists come to exist in several temporal dimensions simultaneously. We participate in their memories, dreams, and visions as Saura creates a fluid movement from present to past and in and out of dreams. What is original about these shifts in time and perspective is that Saura dispenses with the dissolves and soft-focus shots usually used to effectuate a time change in films. In his movies, present and past, reality and fantasy are deliberately fused together. Dream figures seem to be as palpable and as concrete as any of the "real" actors on screen. The audience learns to distinguish them through a series of narrative clues, changes in clothing, and the actors' voices and facial expressions.

This method places substantial demands upon the actors with whom Saura works closely. He has often used the same actors in several movies. Saura has also worked with the same producer and crew for most of his career, which helps explain the significant continuity of his films. Sometimes images or sequences from one movie recur in later ones. As Saura himself has said, "Every film is a consequence of the film before."

Every film is also a consequence of the particular political and social climate prevailing in Spain. With the death of Franco and the subsequent abolition of film censorship that resulted from restoration of democratic rule, Saura moved away from the complex, nonlinear narrative forms he had cultivated under Franco and began to make simpler, almost documentary-like movies. One of these, which dealt with juvenile delinquents in Madrid, was shot with nonprofessional actors from the slums of the capital ( De prisa, de prisa ). Two others are filmed versions of flamenco ballets that are based upon well-known literary works ( Bodas de sangre and Carmen ). In these as in other movies which contain references to Spanish plays, poems, and paintings, Saura affirms his ties to Spanish cultural traditions and shows their relevance to the Spain of today.

El amor brujo is the third of Saura's "Spanish folk films," following Bodas de sangre and Carmen. In it, he combines music, dance, and melodrama in telling the story of a pair of gypsies who have been promised to each other by their respective families; as their wedding approaches, each becomes involved in other romances.

Despite an occasional foray into what for Saura is unusual territory— Dispara! is a clichéd, unconvincing psychological drama about a rape victim who murders her attackers—the filmmaker has continued creating highly political films which explore facets of recent Spanish history, and non-narrative cinematic essays which celebrate Spanish culture. In the former category is Ay, Carmela! , a pointed yet endearing, extremely entertaining farce in which Carmen Maura has one of her best roles in a film not directed by Pedro Almodovar. She plays an entertainer who brings diversion to the partisans during the Spanish Civil War, and who ends up caught behind enemy lines with her husband and their assistant. The film works best as a comic reminiscence of what it means to be politically and morally correct, yet still be on the losing side of a conflict. Flamenco is a loving, exquisitely detailed ode to flamenco music, consisting of lively performances by an array of talented singers, dancers, and guitarists of all ages. Flamenco is a film that Gene Kelly would love; it leaves audience members clapping after each number, entranced by the joy and energy put forth by the performers, the best of whom are nothing short of dazzling. There are no English subtitles in Flamenco. None are needed.

—Katherine Singer Kovács, updated by Rob Edelman

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