Mataharis (Icíar Bollaín, 2007)

Mataharis (directed by Icíar Bollaín)
María Vázquez as Inés in Mataharis

Mataharis is one of the films playing at EIFF as part of their Icíar Bollaín retrospective. My review for Eye for Film is here.

 

Arrebato / Rapture (Iván Zulueta, 1980)

I’ve written about the film on here before, but I’ve now written a review for Eye for Film in relation to Arrebato‘s screening at EIFF 2019. The ***** review is here.

 

5 Spanish Picks for Edinburgh 2019

EIFF 2019 runs 19th – 30th June, and earlier this week they announced their full programme. As I’ve previously highlighted, their Country Focus this year is Spain – so having seen the details of the full programme, I thought that I’d pick out five Spanish-related recommendations.

Apuntes para una película de atracos / Notes for a Heist Film (Elías León Siminiani, 2018)

This is on my list of Spanish films from last year that I want to catch up with both because I liked León Siminiani’s previous film (Mapa (2012), which likewise took the director as a central figure within the film, although that was more of a personal narrative), and also because it looks deadpan funny. It is not available on DVD, but it is on Filmin (without subtitles). Ticket details (two screenings).

 

Arrebato / Rapture (Iván Zulueta, 1979)

I’ve already made my love for this film clear in the past – I’ve not had the chance to see it on the big screen (and I can’t go to Edinburgh on the day that it’s screening), and would encourage anyone who will be at EIFF to get a ticket NOW. Out of all of the Spanish retrospective titles, this should be your priority. Ticket details (one screening).

 

La ciudad oculta / The Hidden City (Víctor Moreno, 2018)

I mentioned this one at the end of my 2018 round-up (which mainly detailed things that I hadn’t seen yet). Moreno’s previous film, Edificio España / The Building (2013) (which I wrote about at length here – and also recommend), captured the deconstruction (and intended refurbishment) of a skyscraping monument to Franco – this one appears to be the inverse, as he explores deep underground and the hidden realm under the city of Madrid. Longtime readers will know that I can’t resist films that explore unusual architectural spaces. Ticket details (two screenings).

 

Icíar Bollaín retrospective

Yes, I’m cheating here by picking a group of films rather than singling out one. Contrary to my initial impression when they first announced this retrospective, it does look like they are screening all of the feature films directed by Bollaín. I think that Te doy mis ojos / Take My Eyes (2003) is the best encapsulation of her career; it is not an easy watch (characteristically nothing is sugarcoated or simplified neatly to reassure audience expectations), but boasts two outstanding performances from Laia Marull and Luis Tosar. The bulk of Bollaín’s films are available on DVD with subtitles (some of them only as imports from Spain, but some have UK editions) and in those circumstances I tend to prioritise titles that aren’t available (or aren’t available with subtitles in a home viewing format), which in this case would point you to ¿Hola, estás sola? / Hi, Are You Alone? (1995 – Bollaín’s feature debut as a director) and Flores de otro mundo / Flowers from Another World (1999). Collectively the films illustrate Bollaín’s interest in the breadth of female experience, be that in family, love, or work – each film manages to encompass a range of lives and experiences, all looked at with compassion and solidarity. You can find ticket details for individual films by clicking on the titles on this summary page.

 

Shorts from Galicia

Fajr (Lois Patiño, 2016)

The Galician shorts included in the programme are:

  • Fajr (Lois Patiño, 2016)
  • Homes / Men (Diana Toucedo, 2016)
  • A liña política / The Policy Line (Santos Díaz, 2015)
  • Matria (Álvaro Gago, 2017)
  • A nena azul / The Blue Child (Sandra Sánchez, 2018)
  • Rapa das bestas / Wild Mane Crop (Jaione Camborda, 2017)

I have written about a selection of Galician shorts previously (in relation to Curtocircuito in 2015), and will happily recommend anything that features work by Lois Patiño sight-unseen – unfortunately I won’t be in Edinburgh on the day this programme screens, otherwise this would definitely be something I would attend. Ticket details (one screening). There is also a programme of contemporary Spanish short films, which will undoubtedly also be worth checking out – Spain has a rich culture of short filmmaking, and you can frequently encounter genuine innovation and experimentation within shorts in a way that doesn’t necessarily often get seen in relation to features.

I will be reviewing a few of the Spanish films for Eye for Film (I seem to own most of the retrospective titles on DVD), so expect further posts on Spanish films at EIFF next month.

Newly Streaming Films

Courtesy of David Cairns signposting that his film Natan (co-directed with Paul Duane) was now streaming online, I discovered a new (to me) streaming platform: IFFRUnleashed. It hosts a veritable cornucopia of esoteric titles from the festival circuit, reasonably priced at 4€ for a feature and 1€ for a short.

There are a number of films that I’ve seen at festivals but not encountered elsewhere, including a range of works by Spanish directors – such as El Futuro (Luis López Carrasco, 2013) and L’Accademia delle Muse (Jose Luis Guerin, 2015 – I might finally get to watch it with English subs!) – but also short films by directors like Radu Jude, Mark Rappaport, and Benjamín Naishtat. I’m going to link to a handful of titles that I’ve previously written about:

In other Spanish film streaming news, Carlos Vermut’s Quién te cantará (2018) has just popped up on Netflix UK, which is unexpected (I may have given an involuntary yelp when I spotted it in ‘Recently Added’) but welcome (the forthcoming Spanish DVD release – which I’ve pre-ordered – doesn’t have any English subs UPDATE: It does have English subs [despite the listings details showing no sign of them]). Netflix UK continues to add very recent Spanish films and TV series, offering a much broader range of Spanish titles than was ever seen in terms of UK DVD releases in the past.

Pronto: Spanish films due in 2019

Caimán cuadernos de cine highlights forthcoming Spanish films

The current issue of Caimán cuadernos de cine includes a feature on 50 films to look out for in 2019 (not available online, hence the image of the page I want to emphasise); the vast majority are the (predictable) titles that will show up in such features irrespective of the geographic location of the magazine, but they’ve also highlighted some homegrown titles in the mix. Caimán was where I first heard/read mention of ‘el otro cine español’ so it’s perhaps not surprising that their emphasis is on filmmakers who fall into that loose archipelago of a ‘group’, but it is nonetheless welcome because I wouldn’t ordinarily hear about such films until they make a splash at a film festival.

By strange coincidence, six of the filmmakers featured appeared in one of my round-up pieces of my favourite films of the year (on the earlier incarnation of the blog that focussed solely on Spanish cinema) back in 2014 – although some of them have made at least one other film in the meantime, it’s somewhat depressing that it has taken 4-5 years for the others to manage to make another feature. Of those six earlier films, I saw four at film festivals and two on DVD (three of the festival titles have still not been released in a home viewing format), an indication that I may have to be willing to travel if I want to see these new ones. Putting Almodóvar’s Dolor y gloria to one side (because it should get a UK release), the films that I’m most interested in tracking down are:

  • Tempo vertical / Vertical Time (dir. Lois Patiño). That 2014 round-up piece sums up how I found Patiño’s Costa da morte / Coast of Death (2013) (also reviewed by me here) to be a visually overwhelming experience in the cinema, and I am intrigued by the description of the new film as ‘una película fantasma’ where ‘time appears to be still while nature continues living’ [my translation of the text in the image] because that sounds like a kind of companion piece to his eerie short film Noite sin distancia / Night without Distance (2015) (reviewed by me here).
  • El año de descubrimiento / The Year of Discovery (dir. Luis López Carrasco). López Carrasco’s previous film, El Futuro / The Future (2013), specifically took place in 1982 (the film opens with the audio of Felipe González’s victory speech in the aftermath of the PSOE’s triumph in the 1982 election) [I wrote about the film – and also Costa da morte – in this festival report focussed on Spanish films that screened at Bradford International Film Festival] and the new one is apparently 1992. Yes, that’s ten years later but 1992 was a significant year for Spain (my PhD thesis covered 1992-2007 and the choice of starting year was not happenstance) so I’ll be interested to see how López Carrasco treats the potent cultural currents of that year (for example, is the title a reference to the anniversary of Columbus’s voyage across the Atlantic [the mention of shipyards in the description is what has made that connection in my mind]? Or something completely unrelated, in the lives of characters in the film? [side note: the Columbus connection is relatively minor in terms of what was going on in Spain in 1992, but it was what the title suggested to me])
  • Longa Noite / Long Night (dir. Eloy Enciso). Enciso’s Arraianos (2012) [my review is here] shares Costa da morte‘s rootedness in the Galician landscape – although Enciso’s film also maps itself into the musicality of the Galician language as well – and this new film likewise seems to have a strong connection to that borderland region.
  • Reservado al personal / Staff Only (dir. Neus Ballús). I’ve only written about Ballús’s La plaga / The Plague Year (2013) in the context of that round-up piece. But I’m interested to see how her filmmaking style has developed given that the description suggests that this is also a docu-fiction, and that – although it focuses on a father-daughter conflict during a family holiday to Senegal – it also seems to retain her interest in people living/working in in-between spaces, this time encompassing the darker side of the tourism industry.
  • La virgen de agosto / The August Virgin (dir. Jonás Trueba). I haven’t written much about Trueba’s films to date – the round-up piece is the only place I’ve written about Los ilusos / The Wishful Thinkers (2013), and his earlier Todos las canciones hablan de mí / All the Songs Are About Me (2010) featured in my equivalent post from 2011. ‘Dreamy / romantic chronicles of Madrid’ could broadly summarise those of his films I’ve seen so far (I’ve not yet caught up with Los exiliados románticos / The Exiled Romantics, which looks like ‘dreamy / romantic chronicles outside of Madrid’), and the description suggests that this one also falls within that realm. Given that his last film (La reconquista / The Reconquest (2016)) has ended up on Netflix UK, there might be an outside possibility that this will do likewise but I’ll not bet on it if the opportunity to see it at a festival appears (I’ll continue tapping my foot while waiting for Los ilusos to get a DVD release).

I guess that there’s a possibility that one or some of these films might feature within Edinburgh’s focus on Spanish cinema (given that it’s the contemporary strand that hasn’t been announced yet). Fingers crossed!

*The English titles given above are my literal translation of the titles, so they may end up being called something else in English if they circulate. The exception is Neus Ballús’s film, which had that translated title when it screened in Berlin.

Albert Finney (1936-2019)

Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton
“Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960).

My 2018: More books (and even fewer films)

Books I read in 2018, in the order I read them

Books –

I didn’t hit my target of 52 books in 2018, but I got close (50). I will start something else before the year is out, but I’m unlikely to finish it quick enough for inclusion here (unless I pick something short, but that would feel like cheating). I’ve only included things I’ve read for pleasure or personal curiosity, not anything I’ve read for work. I don’t continue with a book that becomes a chore (life is too short), so any of the above can be taken as ‘readable’ (not wishing to damn with faint praise but in my experience people’s taste in literature is harder to determine than their taste in films, so I wouldn’t recommend everything to everyone). There’s a range of genres, formats (I’ve developed a taste for short stories), and a mixture of fiction and non-fiction – something for everyone! I make no distinction between ‘new’ and ‘old’ titles, but the highlights for new-to-me books (Hope in the Dark was a re-read) were (in alphabetical order by title):

  • and our faces, my heart, brief as photos – John Berger
  • Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life – Yiyun Li
  • Down the Rabbit Hole – Juan Pablo Villalobos
  • Evening Descends Upon the Hills – Anna Maria Ortese
  • The Goodbye Look – Ross MacDonald
  • The History Thieves – Ian Cobain 
  • Jagua Nana – Cyprian Ekwensi
  • Loitering with Intent – Muriel Spark
  • The Man Who Walked Through Walls – Marcel Aymé
  • The Redemption of Galen Pike – Carys Davies
  • Wise Children – Angela Carter

Honourable mentions: The Lady and the Little Fox Fur – Violette Leduc; The Little Virtues – Natalia Ginzburg; all of the Walter Mosley titles (all part of the Leonid McGill series).

2019: I’m just going to keep on reading, and try to avoid having periods where I don’t read at all (I had about five weeks between September and October where that happened this year, which was the longest I went, but there were several other shorter periods as well). I didn’t really carry out my intention of attempting longer books, so I’m going to aim for that as well – maybe have some short stories on the go at the same time.

Other reading –

A selection of the articles and essays that I’ve found informative, chucklesome, enraging, or thought-provoking this year (where they are available online) [a-z by title] (a couple of the LRB articles are behind a paywall – I’ve tried to pick ones that aren’t – but if you sign up with your email, you can usually read them without charge):

I’m aware that I have probably missed things this year – and will in the future as well – because I closed my Twitter account. I’ve signed up for mailing lists of publications that I find interesting, and I’ve tried subscriptions to a range of print titles…I might miss some things, but I’m still finding a rich seam of information.

Music –

Most-listened-to albums in 2018, in order of release date

I tend to be behind with music, so it’s actually quite surprising that a third of the twelve albums above were released in 2018. The rest aren’t necessarily new purchases (I think three were, but the rest I’ve had for longer), but collectively these were the albums that I listened to most often (usually in the form of my iPod shuffle whilst at work) throughout the year. The impetus for Lauryn Hill’s appearance was the realisation that the album came out twenty years ago (the year I left school and started university). In terms of ‘new discoveries’, Dessa and Rosalía were the highlights. For a musical dunce such as myself, this 38min video (in Spanish but subtitled) exploring what Rosalía does musically in El mal querer – and explaining why it is innovative – was enlightening.

Films –

Total films I’ve watched this year, in the order I saw them

No, that’s not my ‘best of the year’ (rolls eyes) but the sum total of films watched by me in 2018 (so far). I didn’t watch any films in the first half of the year (I watched some TV documentaries, but that’s about it), and more than half of the above were watched in December (due to the combination of being off sick for a week with norovirus and then the Christmas holidays). That Spanish cinema catch-up didn’t happen. If I have another year where my malaise in relation to cinema extends beyond writing about films to not even caring to watch them, it’ll probably be time to shutter the blog – but I’ll see what happens. I’m reading a lot more because I’m enjoying reading for the sake of reading; I need to get back to watching films for enjoyment, and leave the writing to one side.

Becoming Cary Grant (Mark Kidel, 2017) was my favourite of what I watched (I saw it twice); it is a melancholic (the reverberations of childhood trauma throughout his adult life) but insightful portrait of one of my favourite actors. I particularly liked the discussion/analysis of how different directors utilised and developed different aspects of his star image/persona. It made me want to hunt down some of his films that I haven’t yet seen. It screened on TV as part of Imagine, so I don’t know whether it had been edited or whether the redundant and tacked-on Alan Yentob introduction was the extent of the tinkering. The Dead Nation (Radu Jude, 2017) is also very good (making Radu Jude three for three where I’m concerned – Aferim! and Scarred Hearts have both previously been in my ‘best of the year’ posts), and a further dissection and exploration of Romania’s murky history. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” (Radu Jude, 2018) in some manner. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Bill Morrison, 2017) should have been cinematic catnip for me, but fleeting moments of magic aside I found it long and meandering. Rogue One (Gareth Edwards, 2016) has Diego Luna, and that’s probably enough to warrant third position (although Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh, 2017) did make me laugh at various junctures).

2019: the films mentioned at the end of last year’s post are still things to catch up with, alongside the likes of Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018), First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018), Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR, 2018), You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2018), Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018), Western (Valeska Grisebach, 2018), and Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis, 2018). Plus more Spanish titles: Quién te cantará (Carlos Vermut, 2018), Petra (Jaime Rosales, 2018), La ciudad oculta (Victor Moreno, 2018), Entre dos aguas (Isaki Lacuesta, 2018), Viaje al cuarto de una madre (Celia Rico Clavellino, 2018)…and more. A certain man from La Mancha also has his new film out next year (in the Spring in Spain – I’ve not yet seen a date for the UK).

Anyway, for now I’ll wish you health and happiness in 2019!

EIFF Country Focus 2019: Spain

Arrebato

I spotted via Eye for Film the announcement that the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s 2019 Country Focus (a recurring strand of the festival’s programme) will be Spain. What they’ve announced so far is the retrospective part of the strand: an overview of ‘modern Spanish cinema’; a selection of ‘cult Spanish cinema’; and a filmmaker retrospective of Icíar Bollaín.

Bollaín is based in Edinburgh, so that element kind of makes sense. I like a lot of her films (I haven’t seen the two most recent ones), and I admire her commitment to exploring social issues through cinema, and her recurrent focus on the lives of women in varying circumstances. It’s a little strange that they don’t seem to be screening Te doy mis ojos / Take My Eyes (2003); it is effectively an encapsulation of her interests and cinematic style. Personally, I think that it’s her strongest film. But, that said, perhaps it is relatively well known and they’re aiming to highlight films that haven’t had distribution over here (although También la lluvia / Even the Rain (2010) and El Olivo / The Olive Tree (2016) are included)? I would recommend Flores de otro mundo / Flowers of Another World (1999), Even the Rain, and En tierra extraña / In a Foreign Land (2014) if you get the chance to see them.

Voyeurism connects the three cult titles (‘home movies’ / the terrible lure of the camera is another strong link between two of them). Arrebato (Zulueta, 1980) is the lesser-known in the UK (the other two are both available on UK DVD) and is definitely worth checking out if you get the opportunity (I’ve written about the spellbinding nature of Zulueta’s film maudit previously).

But ‘the retrospective celebration of modern Spanish cinema’ is just…odd. I don’t mind the films individually – although I was among the minority that didn’t overly like La piel que habito / The Skin I Live In (Almodóvar, 2011) – but they are not collectively a good illustration of ‘modern Spanish cinema’ in its actual diversity (yes, the selected films span multiple genres, but that isn’t what I mean by cinematic diversity – i.e. a range of voices, styles, and budgets). ‘[S]ome of the finest Spanish cinema of recent times’ is making that ‘some’ do a lot of heavy lifting. ‘Films that have been nominated for Goyas in the last decade’, perhaps. Putting Tarde para la ira / The Fury of a Patient Man (Arévalo, 2016) to one side because I still haven’t watched it (aiming to over Christmas) and I have only heard good things about it, I think that there are more interesting, distinctive, and/or innovative films that have been made in Spain in the last decade (off the top of my head, Diamond Flash (Vermut, 2011), L’accademia della muse / The Academy of Muses (Guerin, 2015), De tu ventana a la mía / Chrysalis (Ortíz, 2012), many films within the Novo Cinema Galego, El Futuro / The Future (López Carrasco, 2013), La distancia / The Distance (Caballero, 2014), Dead Slow Ahead (Herce, 2015), for starters). Those films might not be for everyone (I’m wracking my brains trying to think of a ‘recent’ Spanish film I’ve liked that’s had an A-to-B-to-C style narrative structure, or otherwise been a box-office smash, so I accept that the films that interest me tend to be outside of the mainstream [although not exclusively]) but innovation and different perspectives should be celebrated alongside mainstream commercial cinema, especially at film festivals.

Anyway, I’ll keep an eye out for them announcing the ‘separate programme of contemporary Spanish cinema’ (which may not be until the full programme is revealed in May). Personal wish list (although I won’t hold my breath): Petra (Rosales, 2018); Entre dos aguas (Lacuesta, 2018); Quién te cantará (Vermut, 2018); Trote (Baño, 2018); Viaje al cuarto de una madre (Rico Clavellino, 2018); Carmen y Lola (Echevarria, 2018); and Apuntes para una película de atracos (Siminiani, 2018).

My current obsession: Rosalía’s ‘Pienso en tu mirá’

The spirit of Bigas Luna lives on. Jamón jamón meets Yo soy la Juani, but slicker’ was my first thought, but mainly because the video shares his unashamed harnessing – and celebration – of españolidad (and youth).

The breadth of my cultural references seems to be the first casualty of my extended absences (and eventual full departure) from twitter; the song was a massive hit in Spain in the summer, but although I was aware of Rosalía (she is part of the cast of Almodóvar’s next film) it wasn’t until earlier this week that I encountered the video/song (her new album, El Mal Querer, was released yesterday). The video is directed by the Barcelona-based collective CANADA (they were also responsible for the video for Rosalía’s other 2018 hit, ‘Malamente‘) – there’s an interview about the video with one of the directors here. Plus, an English language interview with Rosalía about El Mal Querer.