Tag Archives: Fernando Fernan Gomez

Noventa minutos/Ninety minutes (Antonio del Amo, Spain, 1949)

noventa minutos

 

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Congratulations and thanks to the Filmoteca Española for this inventive and valuable response to the current pandemic. They´ve had to close the Cine Doré in Madrid, but have put up the newly restored Noventa minutos/ 90 minutes, along with program notes and a report on the film´s restoration, online so people shut indoors can continue to see and discuss film classics and the nation´s film heritage, often, and certainly in the case of Noventa minutos, not the same thing. The online program is titled ‘Doré en casa’/The Doré Cinema from Home and can be seen here:

They´ve included programme notes on the film by José Luis Castro: 90 minutos José Luis Castro hola de sala

and a report on the history and various factors involved in the film´s restoration: restauración 90 minutos María Muñoz.

I thought it a pity they didn´t include a version with English sub-titles as it would certainly have increased the potential audience for the film. But then it is a service for Spanish people in Spain so why should they?

Noventa minutos/ Ninety minutes is a film that people interested in Francoist Spanish culture will be fascinated by. It was made by a team of filmmakers who´d fought on the Republican side of the Spanish civil war –something of an achievement in itself in the late forties, years of hunger and retribution — and by a filmmaker from a poor peasant background, Antonio del Amo (Pedro Almodóvar is the only other one I know of comparable background). When I saw it I thought of doing a video essay on how it exemplifies aspects of Francoist culture (the military, gender, religion, motherhood) but then read in the essay notes accompanying the film that it brushed against the censorship norms of the time, due to its advocacy for peace, and that according to J.C Seguín the fim is ‘a clear reflexion on and condemnation of the civil war and its disasters ({se trata de hecho} de una clara reflexión y una condena de la guerra civil y sus desastres), something I´d not cottoned on to, and all of which makes it even more fascinating.

The film is interestingly set in London during the Blitz and should be of particular enjoyment and interest to British friends. It begins with  a set of bobbies (see below, it’s worth looking it just to see how much like a Pepe the character of Preston [José Maria Lado] looks like). They  look nothing like bobbies so might in fact be military police patrolling the neighbourhood or it could just be part of the aesthetic of poverty so prevalent in Spanish cinema of the period. The bobbies talk about, and introduce us to, the inhabitants of a particular building :Mrs. Winter (Julia Caba Alba) who lives with and strictly controls her daughter Helen (Lolita Moreno),  a Spanish colonel and his grandson: a Spanish Doctor, Eugenia Suárez (Nani Fernández), a nervous Mr Marchand (Fernando Fernán-Gómez in an early role) and his wife who´s expecting at any moment; and key to our narrative, Mrs. Dupont (Mary Lamar) and her husband (José Jaspe)

 

Mrs. Dupont was once in love with and wrote letters to Albert (Jacinto San Emeterio) now in her home trying to blackmail her with them. He wants 500 pounds and sex. She´s only got 300 and is about to be taken advantage of at the very moment her husband walks in. She leads Albert into another room to hide , and that´s where the blackmailer comes face to face with a burglar, Richard (Enrique Guitart). They know and dislike each other, the burglar finding the blackmailer a cad. As they tussle with each other a bomb goes off, the blackmailer escapes, but the burglar, hurt now, is forced to descend into the bomb shelter along with the other inhabitants of the building.

Most of the action takes place in one set, the bomb shelter, a good way of making films in the cheap, and particularly economical considering the whole film was shot at night to take advantage of the sets used during the day for El santuario no se rinde [A. Ruíz-Castillo, 1949). There´s a deadline as well: once all the inhabitants are in the bomb shell they only have ninety minutes worth of oxygen. How will each face the possibility of death? Will they get out? The set-up reminded me of Jean-Paul Sartre´s Huis Clos, the being enclosed, the feeling of having no way out, the way each of the characters is a jumping point to a discussion of ideas. It´s filmed bu Juan Mariné with great skill and careful use of lighting, with skilful compositions, and expressive shallow focus. These are filmmakers who knew what they were doing but didn´t quite have the means to realise their ideas or make the best use of their skills.

The film innocently expresses very rigid notions of gender (you´re a real man), the delight when the baby born is a boy) and of romance (like when the doctor who´s now fallen in love with the burgler rushes to say it´s her first kiss’; on Spanishness  ´you as a Spaniard will understand’; and on Catholicism, Catholicism is the most beautiful religion, the urge to baptise the baby, the significance of the cross. How this ideology brushes up against it also being ”a clear reflexion on and condemnation of the civil war and its disasters’ is one of the reasons the film remains so interesting. But it´s not the only one. The plot is ingenious. The cinematography, carefully considered. We have on view already several different types of traditions of Spanish acting (Julia Caba Alba vs. Fernán-Gomez etc.

 

I´m grateful to Cine Doré for allowing me to see something I´d otherwise have great trouble accessing.

 

José Arroyo

 

Further image/notes:

 

 

 

 

 

‘Te lo juro yo’ in Las cosas del querer

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Writing on Las cosas del querer in the year 2000 (see reference at end) ….I noted how the film re-imagines and re-images Spain through the ‘figure of the homosexual and through homosexual culture, i.e. what in the film’s narrative is exiled from Spain, the film itself re-constructs and re-inserts into the representation of nation. When Mario (Manuel Bandera) is discharged from jail at the beginning of the film, the warden contemptuously hands him what he sees as his faggotty castanets and tells him, ‘in this Spain of peace there is no place for reds or queers’. But in the Spain of Las cosas, queers are in fact everywhere: cafes, toilets, and aristocratic drawing rooms; on-stage, backstage and, most  importantly in the audience. When María Barranco sings that she is delighted  to be ‘single for life’, the campy boys in the audience respond in the feminine, ‘nosotras tambien (we are a well)’.

A pivotal moment in Las cosas, one which demonstrates how the film draws on gay culture and the folklore film is the scene below, where Mario (Manuel Bandera) sings, ‘Te lo juro yo (I swear to you)’ to Juan (Ángel de Andrés López)Structurally this is the climax of the film where Mario declares his love for Juan, rejects the Marquis and insults the Marquis’ mother, thus setting in play the mechanisms for the dénoument. We are first shown Mario in long shot. The song begins. Mario, looking intently at Juan in medium close-up, abruptly turns away to face the empty theatre as he begins to sing, ‘Yo no me di cuenta de que te tenía hasta el mismo dia en que te perdi (I didn’t realise I had you until the very first day I lost you)’. Mario sings of his suffering and begs for love. When the lyrics gets to the point that the break-up was all his fault because he slept around, we are shown the Marquis spying on the performance, a clear reference to Mario’s own sexual appetite. However the key moment is when, in close-up, Mario, eyes brimming with tears, turns abruptly back to face Juan and sings the lyrics, declares his love, directly to him ‘mira que te llevo dentro de mi corazón…mira que pa mí en el mundo no hay na mas que tú….por tí contaria la arena del mar, por tí seria capaz de matar (Look, I carry you within my heart..Look, for there is only you…for you I would count the sand in the sea, for you I would be capable of killing)’. Juan squirms with embarrassment but Mario will sing the rest of the song directly to him.

 

Gay male audiences were avid and knowledgeable consumers of the folklore genre and the films, songs and stars of the genre were, and continue to be, an important part of Spanish camp culture. Jo Labanyi in Screen has written that the ‘early Francoist folklórica has in recent years enjoyed a revival with Spanish gay audiences because of its camp exposure and the evident constructedness of its representation of gender roles. Las cosas not only puts the gay audience back in to the picture diegetically but also addresses gay in the audience through a mode of narration that acknowledges and utilises a camp appreciation of the genre at various levels.

 

 

The climax of Las cosas del querer is the declaration of love of one man for another through a song that has rich connotations. Lola Flores famously performed ‘Te lo juro yo’ to Fernando Fernan Gomez in Morena Clara (Luis Lucia, 1954, see clip above). She was the happy-go-lucky gypsy, he the stiff lawyer. Lola is leaving hims because his mother has convinced her that she would damage his career. So she sings him this song as a way of saying goodbye and with an intensity of feeling and a sense of self-abnegation that echoes and begs comparison with Bandera’s more restrained and less skilful performance. But what is also carried through is the memory of Lola Flores and what she signifies both in the folklore film and in gay culture. Leonardo Rojic has rated her as one of the greatest camp icons. Roger D. Tinnell calls her the ‘Queen’ of Spanish music. She was also a mythic star of folklore cinema in the Spain of the 40s and 50s. Román Guber compared these folklore stars to monsters: ‘in times of (economic) depression the cinema converts itself not so much to a factory of dreams as into a factory of nightmares. The Americans invented King King, we invented the folklóricas‘.

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It’s a cruel remark, Lola, so famous and beloved she was called Lola of Spain was seen to represent what was best about Spanishness: talent, wit, pluck, energy and of course alegría (gaeity). She embodied this in such an exaggerated way that it became camp. Seeing Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards (Michael Roberts, Netflix, 2017) it was interesting to see Blahnik and John Galliano bonding together through a campy appreciation of Lola Flores (see image above) which demonstrates both their love for her and her continued sub-cultural significance.

 

What I didn’t know when I wrote the article on Las cosas in the year 2000 is that the song was also performed by Sara Montiel in Varietés (see above). So the use of the song in Las cosas del querer has associations not only with one diva but with two; two stars associated with outsiderness and transgression; two figures central to camp appreciation in Spain from the late forties right through at least the 80s and beyond, two transgressive figures, through which male homosexual audiences in Spain learned particular ways of being gay and a particular gay culture which they could contribute to, participate in, change; and in doing so find an imaginary space through which to construct an identity, a culture and a society in a country in which they were forbidden to; where their very being resulted in censure and punishment.

It’s interesting now to see the same number in Las cosas as a re-presentation of queerness in Spain brought together in a declaration of homosexual love that speaks through a collective memory of a camp appreciation of both Lola Flores and Sara Montiel, processes that Almodóvar dramatises so well in relation to Montiel in La mala educación/ Bad Education.

You can see Almodóvar’s hommage to Flores below:

And here is his hommage to Sara Montiel:

Three versions of the same song across three films from different decades, sung by two gay divas and one homosexual speaks a particular gay culture, its development, change and uses, as is evident in Almodóvar’s appreciation of both.

José Arroyo

 

 

 

 

References:

José Arroyo, ‘Queering the Folklore: Genre and Re-presentation of Homosexual and National Identities in Las cosas del querer‘, Bill Marshall and Robynn Stilwell (eds), London: Intellect Books, 2000, pp. 70-80. All other references can be found in this article.