I’m enjoying Jaguar, a Netflix series about Spanish survivors of German concentration camps who group together as Nazi hunters in early 60s Spain. The twist is not only that they’re Spanish but that they’re hunting down Nazis within a fascist regime. Action sequences are interpolated with brilliant young singers versioning the coplas of the period. Maria de Madeiros with her wide dark eyes and soft tentative voice, appears as the secret head of the operation, always at the Prado museum, framed against beautiful paintings that are a backdrop, a point of conversation between the characters, and an added signifier to the narrative. Madeiros is lovely to see. I also enjoy the animated credit sequence (though not the song). Only two episodes in; commercial fare not of the top rank; and stylistically it’s nothing to scream about, but the story is holding me, clichés and all. It’s on Netflix.
The show is set in the Spain of the early 1960s but looks nothing like it. No poor people. No peasants wondering around selling their garlic on street corners. Jaguar seems to have been made by a generation without memory, or is it perhaps just means? Pop music does help with this, Marisol singing Tombola; Spanish versions of Rolling Stones hits on the radio; you sometimes get the occasional poster (Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel appears as a background poster but even that, though correct to the period feels anachronistic).
Jaguar has a look that is out of time, contemporary, generic. A depiction of a Francoist Spain made by Spanish filmmakers who seem to have very little knowledge of it. There’s a bit where Blanca Suárez as Isabel Garrido/Jaguar, a waitress in an expensive restaurant frequented by Germans, walks around the streets of Madrid in trousers where you think ‘in Madrid in 1962? A waitress wearing trousers? Never!’ The upside to this ahistoricism, at least in relation to film history, is that the protagonist is now a woman, the head of the operation is also a woman, and one of the gang is a gay man struggling with his sexuality and finding sympathy and understanding from his colleagues (in a Spain with severe anti-gay laws and where there had until recently been concentration camps for gay men).
But perhaps none of this matters. I binged it, and did so with pleasure. It’s clichéd but competently done and moves along at pace. It’s comic book scenario — and this is not meant as an insult. I love comic books and I suspect that there’s a comic book the show is based on that’s better than the series — but with a great central idea, a modern approach to a Mission Impossible-type scenario (a group on a mission — in this case Nazi Hunters in Spain), the the narrative propulsion of a good serial or comic book, interspersed with pleasurable actions sequences throughout. I look forward to the next series.