POLITICAL AND ARTISTICTRANSITIONS: 1975–1982
The seven years following Franco's death saw the dismantling of the dictatorship and the implementation of democratic processes, culminating in 1982 with the election of the first socialist Spanish government since the civil war. There were three notable trends in film culture in this period: cinematic recreations of historical moments, often but not always related to the civil war ( Pascual Duarte [Ricardo Franco, 1975], Retrato de familia [ Family Portrait , Antonio Giménez Rico, 1976], Aun dios desconocido [ To an Unknown God , Jaime Chávarri, 1977]); documentaries that similarly framed previously proscribed themes related to life under the dictatorship ( El desencanto [ The Disenchantment , Chávarri, 1976], La vieja memoria [ The Old Memory , Camino, 1978]); and irreverent comedies that embraced the style of US independent films of the 1970s ( Tigres de papel [ Paper Tigers , Fernando Colomo, 1977], Pepi, Luci, Bom [Pedro Almodóvar, 1980], Opera prima [ First Effort , Fernando Trueba, 1979]).
b. Calzada de la Calatrava, Spain, 15 September 1949
The most acclaimed contemporary Spanish director, Pedro Almodóvar developed his skills as a filmmaker in underground shorts he made in the 1970s before turning to commercial feature-length films with Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón ( Pepi, Luci, Bom , 1980). This raucous comedy, shot on a shoestring, eventually became a cult hit. It portrayed characters from Madrid's pop-culture movement of the late 1970s ( Movida ) in the flimsiest of plots. In a similar antibourgeois style, Laberinto de pasiones ( Labyrinth of Passions , 1982) marked the film debuts of Imanol Arias and Antonio Banderas, both of whom have gone on to have important film careers.
Entre tinieblas ( Dark Habits , 1983), Almodóvar's third film, reflects his first serious engagement in melodrama, a genre that has shaped much of his subsequent film work. With ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! ( What Have I Done to Deserve This? , 1984), a black comedy with a strong social theme about urban families living on the periphery of Spain's economic prosperity, Almodóvar began to gain international attention. The film displays the acting range of its star, Carmen Maura, who had appeared in Almodóvar's films since her lead in Pepi, Luci, Bom . The actress and director went on to make three more films over the next three years: Matador (1986), La Ley del deseo ( Law of Desire , 1987), and Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios ( Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown , 1988). In their plotting and the centrality given to women and gay characters, all of whom are motivated by liberated sexual desire, these three films reflect the modernizing process of post-Franco Spanish culture. With the success of these films Almodóvar, along with his brother Augustin, established his own production company, El Deseo S.A.
With Tacones lejanos ( High Heels , 1991), Madrid, the principal setting of his first nine films, began to recede as Almodóvar's films became more dramatic than comedic in inspiration. Throughout the 1990s Almodóvar focused on strong female protagonists, and his films' stellar performances by Spanish actresses Marisa Paredes and Victoria Abril. At times, his transgressive humor has been controversial, particularly the presumably comic rape scene in Kika (1993). Almodóvar's films of the post- Kika period have achieved more general acceptance, as indicated by the Oscars ® he won in two consecutive years, for Todo sobre mi madre ( All About My Mother , 1999) for best foreign film, and Hable con ella ( Talk to Her , 2002) for best screenplay. Both of these films, as well as his subsequent La mala educación ( Bad Education , 2004), are complex narratives built around themes of artistic creativity, gender transformations, and the characters' affirmations of new social and sexual identities.
¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! ( What Have I Done to Deserve This? , 1984), Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios ( Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown , 1988), Todo sobre mi madre ( All About My Mother , 1999), La mala educación ( Bad Education , 2004)
Allinson, Mark. A Spanish Labyrinth: The Films of PedroAlmodóvar. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2001.
Smith, Paul Julian. Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of PedroAlmodóvar . London: Verso, 2003.
Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula, ed. Pedro Amodóvar: Interviews. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2004.
The outburst of sexually explicit films on Spanish movie screens in the early 1980s was as much a testing of
new freedoms as it was an effort to retain a national audience in the face of the barrage of previously banned European films that were now being shown in Spain. Documentaries such as Vestida de azul ( Dressed in Blue , Giménez Rico, 1984) and fictional films such as Cambio de sexo ( Change of Sex , Aranda, 1977) and El diputado ( The Deputy , Eloy de la Iglesia, 1979) dealt with previously prohibited themes such as homosexuality, cross-dressing, and sex-change operations.
The socialist victory of 1982 brought a radical transformation of state policies, with filmmaker Pilar Miró (1940–1997) assuming the position of director general of cinema. Miró's aggressive efforts to promote Spanish cinema abroad resulted in the awarding of the first Oscar ® for a Spanish film, in the best foreign film category for Volver a empezar ( To Begin Again , José Luis Garci, 1981). Unfortunately, Miró's strategy of generously subsidizing the industry to produce more and better films (146 features were produced in 1984) also increased filmmakers' dependency on the state to sustain production. Significant support also came through a coproduction arrangement with Spanish state television (RTVE) for adaptations of literary classics, which, in turn, brought new international attention to Spanish cinema through prestigious festival awards. These included Camus's adaptation of Camilo José Cela's novel, La colmena ( The Beehive , 1982), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; acting awards for Paco Rabal and Alfredo Landa at the Cannes festival for their performances in Camus's adaptation of Miguel Delibes's Los santos inocentes ( Holy Innocents , 1984); and Saura's award for best artistic contribution for Carmen that same year at Cannes.