Thinking Aloud About Film: Umbracle (Pere Portabella, Spain, 1972)



We continue our exploration of Pere Portabella films, this one his third feature, Umbracle, an experimental off-shoot of Cuadecuc Vampir. Umbracle means shade created by twigs or pieces of wood, and we discuss the significance of the title in relation to what the film shows: is it focussing on what’s being hidden or revealed by the light? The film has a mystery that raises questions, a sensuality; there’s a seduction, both somatic and intellectual, to what the images are like, what they show, evoke, elicit. The film trots out three different film critics  — Roman Gúbern, Miguel Bilbatúa and Joan Enric Lahosa — to discuss the impossibility of representing, and to advocate for an underground, more political, more experimental cinema (see clip below); juxtaposing this with excerpts of Frente infinito (Pedro Lazaga, 1959), a film about a priest in wartime, an ideal of Francoist cinema, the cross hand-in-hand with the rifle (see image below). A film of fragments, about modernity, on politics, a critique, yet one conscious of the seductiveness of sounds and images. We discuss all this and more in this all too brief podcast.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here:

and on itunes here:

I am including the long excerpt where critics discuss censorship in Spanish cinema: opposed to the ideal Francoist cinema of praying and shooting, condensed in this image:

The ‘Peter Cushing looking for his fee’ clip Richard refers to may be seen here:

An excellent article by Rosalind Galt contextualising Pere Portabella’s work and indeed that of the ‘Barcelona School’ , both in national and international aesthetic and political currents, may be accessed here.


José Arroyo

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