The Carlos Saura Challenge: 1962-1979

When I first decided to set myself the challenge of watching all of Carlos Saura’s films (back in 2013), the project had two purposes: to fill in a large gap in my knowledge of Spanish cinema (I had only seen a handful of his films); to occupy myself while I was stuck in part-time employment (a situation I’d been in since graduating with my PhD in 2010). The idea had formed months earlier but it took me some time to track down access to the films (some are only available as VOD but I’m watching the majority on unsubtitled DVDs), and to work out whether I could get hold of enough of them as to make the challenge worthwhile. For a long time a lot of ‘classic’ Spanish films were unavailable in any kind of home viewing format (the label Divisa has been addressing this in the past few years); at this point Saura had 37 feature films to his name (that figure is now currently 39), some of which have never had a DVD release and many of those that had seemed to be OOP. After 6 months I had found/acquired 30 of the films, and so I started the initial run of the challenge in February 2013.

My initial intention of short posts on each film interspersed with longer pieces about groups of the films never really materialised, although I covered 6 of the films in the first couple of months. In May 2013 I finally managed to get a full-time job and I didn’t sustain any momentum with the challenge after that point – the gaps between posts got bigger and bigger, until I stopped altogether. This was partly to do with lack of time (and energy) but also a resistance to having the challenge turn into a chore (e.g. I would have had to watch 2 or 3 Saura films each month in order to stay on my original schedule, which was fine when I was part-time, but now that left very little time for watching anything else) – the enjoyment disappeared. The last time I wrote about a Saura film for the challenge (on the old blog) was in January 2015…and then I ground to a complete halt. But I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and obviously I now own almost all of the films (I have access to 38 of the 39 films – there is only one that I’ve been completely unable to track down).

But I wasn’t particularly motivated to re-start last year because – as I detailed in my end-of-year post – my interest in cinema generally plummeted, as did my enthusiasm for writing about films. I decided to take a break from blogging for the first half of this year. I can’t say that my enthusiasm has reignited but I don’t want to get completely out of the habit of writing (I did so in the aftermath of completing my PhD and it took me a long time to regain any feeling of dexterity with language or confidence in my own voice – a situation I have no wish to repeat). So I started thinking about the Carlos Saura Challenge again – could this be a way of getting back into writing more regularly? I started rewriting the original posts, rewatching some of the films when my memory wasn’t clear enough – rewriting seemed like a good way to ease myself back into writing without being confronted by a completely blank page. Posting as and when I’d watched and written about a film didn’t work the first time around, so my intention was to get everything written and then post all of it together over the course of 4-6 weeks, maybe towards the end of the year (the writing is more important than the publishing). Then doubt set in – am I just setting myself up for a fall given that I’ve always struggled with momentum on this project, and I’ve still only watched a third of the films?

The size of Saura’s filmography is slightly overwhelming – he has been working consistently for more than 50 years. Looking at a list of his films, I started to consider where I could draw possible lines of division to break them into smaller groups. The director has said that his films can be roughly divided into three categories: the ‘musical’ films (although, as he points out, music is important in all of his films); the fictional films; and films that he describes as ‘personal essays’ about figures who have inspired him (e.g. Buñuel and Goya). But I don’t want to divide them along thematic lines (and I’ll say now – as I did during the original run – that I’m not sure exactly how I will approach the musical/dance films because I lack both the technical expertise and vocabulary for those art forms). So rather than theme, or ‘phases’, I’ve gone with decades as the dividing lines: 1962-1979; 1980-1999; 2000-2017. The films don’t divide equally between those time periods (13, 17, and 9 respectively) but this was the simplest way to do it. I am sticking with my plan of writing everything for a given collection and then publishing it as a sequence over a number of weeks, but completing the whole thing this year is unrealistic; given the number of films in the 1980-1999 collection, that set will likely not appear on the blog until early 2018 (with 2000-2017 to probably follow by that summer).

But for the next fortnight, the 1962-1979 schedule is as follows:

  1. Los golfos / The Delinquents (1962) [Mon 3rd]
  2. Llanto por un bandido / Lament for a Bandit (1964) [Tues 4th]
  3. La caza / The Hunt (1966) [Wed 5th]
  4. Peppermint frappé (1967) [Thurs 6th]
  5. Stress es tres, tres / Stress is Three (1968) [Fri 7th]
  6. La madriguera / Honeycomb (1969) [Sat 8th]
  7. El jardín de las delicias / The Garden of Delights (1970) [Sun 9th]
  8. Ana y los lobos / Ana and the Wolves (1973) [Mon 10th]
  9. La prima Angélica / Cousin Angelica (1974) [Tues 11th]
  10. Cría cuervos / Raise Ravens (1976) [Wed 12th]
  11. Elisa, vida mía / Elisa, My Love (1977) [Thurs 13th]
  12. Los ojos vendados / Blindfolded Eyes (1978) [Fri 14th]
  13. Mamá cumple 100 años / Mama Turns 100 (1979) [Sat 15th]

I will add links within the titles as the posts are published.

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