I just finished reading ‘Fabiógrafía’. Who could resist the title? Or for that matter the subject? Fabio is the Fanny who lit up so many early Almodóvar films (PEPI, LABYRINTH, even LAW OF DESIRE) enlivening General Erection Contests or Killer Driller porno shoots with her gender-bending freshness, candour, intelligence, bravery and wit. I thought that like, so many in the Movida, she’d died in the nineties of either AIDS or heroin. But no, here she is telling us her story, and tarnishing her legend in the process of gilding it.
The story is told by Fabio but written up by Marío Vaquerízo, Alaska’s husband, who keeps bragging that he’s got a degree in journalism but constantly demonstrates how little he learned from it.
He certainly doesn’t question anything Fabio/Fanny says (did all teenagers really go live on their own at 17 in Spain in the 70s? If not, what was it that drove him to leave his family home in Ciudad Pegaso , the factory town he grew up in on the outskirts of Madrid? His sexuality?). Nor does he contextualise; and so he allows quite a lot of corkers to get through. Did people really enjoy a lot more sexual freedom under Franco? If Fanny says so it must be true. She tells us all about her drug taking, the various people she lived with, her relationships with various artists around the Movida, and whether and how they got along with each other; how her collaborations with Almodóvar in the films, records, comic books, and live shows came about and how it came apart (she got hooked on heroine and became unreliable). But she tells us the facts, not the processes that led to them nor how she felt about any of it.
Everyone was great, everything was fun; 90% of the book takes us to the late 80s….and then people start to dies and her career goes down the tubes…and the book quickly comes to a close. We get little about any of this. In fact we get little about her feelings; if it wasn’t fun, it doesn’t really get discussed in Fanny’s universe. So we know she put her parents through hell, went in and out of re-hab, has three incurable chronic diseases (but which ones?). She’s re-found God and attends mass regularly; she’s become a right-winger who’s carried the flag in the monument to Franco and Fascism that is ‘El valle de los caídos/ The Valley of the Fallen’. She’s gone back to painting not very good pictures which everyone tells her are great. Self-analysis is clearly not her thing. Like in Lana Turner’s autobiography however, we do get an account of practically every outfit she ever wore, where she bought it, how she put it together and whether it was Bowie, Iggy, the Velvets or the New York Dolls who influenced it. So it wasn’t a total loss. But it makes for sad reading, particularly since one suspects 80s Fanny would have seen present-day Fabio as her worst nightmare.
A couple of weeks ago I went to The Garden Cinema to talk to them about Almodóvar and Penelope Cruz for the cycle of Cruz films they’ll be screening soon. The discussion is a bit chaotic, like all good conversation tends to be, but Abla Kandalaft elegantly puts the reins on when needed. I make one error that I caught when I listened, and that is when I refer to the plot of Bigas Luna’s Golden Balls and say Javier Madeiro marries the boss’ wife instead of his daughter (the exquisite Maria de Madeiros).
Madrid after Franco and before Colonel Tejero’s attempted coup in 1981. Filmed for a noir, El Crack (1981) so the bleakness is expected. Still, the decrepitude of the buildings, the dirt, speak of a certain legacy of the dictatorship, now overcome and at the risk of being forgotten. The run-down-ness of it all is evident in other — lighter, comedic — works of the era such as Almodóvar’s What Have I Done to Deserve This or Trailer for Lovers of the Forbidden. This is just a supercut, which I hope to do more with at some point, but here just as a record.
A friend of mine commented that what he saw in the film didn’t look that bad to him. But the film shows us the grandest parts of the city and still one sees about 30 years of grime on all the official building. Then there’s the cars, the garbage on the streets, the relative lack of traffic, etc. It’s the sight of a once imperial city reduced to ‘second world’ status. It’s all glossier now. See for example below in the background the Cine Doré on left side of the street near the centre of the frame:
..and see how it is today (and how it appears in Almodóvar’s Talk To Her. It’s where Benigno goes to see The Incredible Shrinking Lover:
I’m not the only one thinking of lipstick. A typically interesting visual aside, nonetheless relevant, from Almodóvar in Julieta: