Daniel Calparsoro, a director who has contributed to the contemporary scene in Spanish and Basque cinema, has provoked strong reactions from the critics. Reductively dismissed as a purveyor of crude violence by those critics lamenting a ‘lost golden age’ of Spanish filmmaking, Calparsoro's films reveal in fact a more complex interaction with trends and traditions in both Spanish and Hollywood cinema. This book is a full-length study of the director's work, from his early social realist films set in the Basque Country to his later forays into the genres of the war and horror film. It offers an in-depth film-by-film analysis, while simultaneously exploring the function of the director in the contemporary Spanish context, the tension between directors and critics, and the question of national cinema in an area—the Basque Country—of heightened national and regional sensitivities.
With Spain's return to democracy and the granting of regional autonomy to the Spanish Basque provinces, a sustained political and cultural conflict has ensued about the right of the latter to be considered an independent nation. Marti-Olivella specifically compares the denial of Basqueness with the denial of gender expressed by female writers and artists. This chapter examines the case of Basque director Ana Diez in the light of this problematic theorisation. Through an examination of two keys films, it seeks to trace the way in which some of her work problematises the equation of home with the Basque Country. It also suggests how Diez as a female director comes to occupy an unmappable space in discussion of Basque cinema, in Rob Stone and Helen Jones's terms. The chapter shows that her films suggest a recurring sense of 'not at home' which finds a parallel in Diez's own film career.
Imperio Argentina and Penélope Cruz as Nazi Germany’s exotic Other
As a result of her success as a singer, and subsequently as a leading actress in Spanish folkloric films of the 1930s and 1940s, Imperio Argentina became a grande dame of Spanish cinema. It is not only the general storyline that reminds us of Argentina's earlier film, but also plot details such as the fact that a German version of the film was made alongside the Spanish one, with German actors and directed by a character called Maisch. La niña also features the song 'Los piconeros', in both Spanish and German: the same song that formed a centrepiece of Carmen, la de Triana. If in order to perform her part as Carmen in both films Argentina learned German especially for the occasion, in La niña her fictional counterpart Macarena Granada (played by Penélope Cruz) demonstrates her own skills with her German dialogue and lyrics, which she learnt phonetically.
This chapter considers the subject of this book: the work of a contemporary Spanish film director, Daniel Calparsoro, in auteurist terms. This study of Calparsoro discusses not only Calparsoro's films but also the Spanish cinema of today and the ways in which it is studied, written about and presented. It aims to make explicit some of the ways in which certain films and production processes are implicitly deemed more desirable, more worthy of attention by academics, critics and audiences. It offers an overall presentation of Calparsoro and his total corpus of work to date in relation to trends and traditions within Spanish cinema, serving to problematise these. Thus Calparsoro is discussed against the background of specific developments in Spanish cinema since 1995, how both the film industry and critics perceived these developments, and how perceptions changed after Spanish cinema arguably fell into crisis from 2002. Calparsoro's style makes the critics uncomfortable, suggesting that, regardless of his own putative roots in an earlier Spanish cinema, his deviation from the increasing convergence of Spanish cine social and slick commercialism has irritated the critics, indicating in turn that their expectations, if not his, have changed.
This chapter discusses the interaction of the director Calparsoro and the star Calparsoro. Calparsoro has not made his six films unaided and others participated in his work have collaborated to a greater or lesser extent. This collaboration both in terms of its significance for Calparsoro's own work but also in terms of how an individual director's work leaches into and interacts with other aspects of the Spanish film scene, in this case the Spanish star system. It expands to a consideration of the presentation of women in his films, particularly the Basque trilogy, ultimately linking this debate back to the role of Nimri in Calparsoro's work. Nimri certainly has her place within this matrix. Nimri's personal life has impinged on the perception of her star persona; the latter is founded primarily on the roles she has undertaken. Calparsoro's films contributed to her viability as a star, but she also began to develop a repertoire separate from that of Calparsoro's work, starting with Abre los ojos in 1997. Reviews of Calparsoro's work refer time and again to the idea of Nimri as Calparsoro's muse.
This chapter discusses Calparsoro's first feature film Salto al vacío. Of all the films in Calparsoro's oeuvre, none has had more impact or been more discussed than his first feature-length film Salto al vacío. Salto al vacío placed Calparsoro in the frame of cine social and the subgenre of stories about urban youth. Central to Calparsoro's concept of the urban youth film is his use of violence. With his later films Calparsoro makes use of music directly composed for the films; with Salto, however, he makes use of pre-recorded music by the Smashing Pumpkins, Stiltskin and El Inquilino Comunista. An analysis of the music therefore suggests that Calparsoro uses it to do more than simply perpetuate notions of aggressive youth culture. Salto is in fact a remarkably quiet film given its content. The loudest use of music comes with the end credits; this, being the last sounds of the film, may have affected critical impressions of it as a loud and brash work.
This chapter discusses Calparsoro's second film Pasajes. For Pasajes, Calparsoro immersed himself a little more within the Spanish film industry by drawing on the support of one of the most noted production companies of the contemporary Spanish scene. This time Calparsoro had access to better resources than before, despite the struggle with funding—for example, a fight instructor, and the music of Alberto Iglesias, who started a regular collaboration with Almodovar in 1995. Calparsoro himself suggested that Almodovar had expected something different, more conventional, from the actual film. If the director's relationship with more established sectors of the industry was not always comfortable, the reception by the critics also showed a certain amount of impatience. The Spanish reaction to Pasajes thus proved to some extent similar to that of Salto, with somewhat less indulgence than that shown to a first-time feature-film director but with some effort to view both film and director as purveyors of some sort of art.
This chapter discusses Calparsoro's film ciegas. Of all the films in Calparsoro's oeuvre, A ciegas is the one that least insists on the landscape as a central element of the film. A ciegas, the last of the Basque trilogy again foregrounds a female protagonist against the backdrop of a violent Basque reality with the story of an ETA terrorist who rebels against ETA and flees with her son from the armed struggle. A ciegas is examined in the context of cinema about Basque terrorism, but the chapter also aims to demonstrate that, far from the director's work being subordinate to the moulds of Basque cinema, the specifically Basque theme of terrorism forms part of his wider view on female desire and frustration. With A ciegas Calparsoro garnered some positive comparison for two of Spain's most renowned established auteurs. Critique of the film focused around two main issues: the depiction of the Basque conflict and the central section in which Marrubi's employer, Clemente, holds her hostage.
This chapter discusses Calparsoro's film Asfalto. Critics as usual offered a mixed reaction to the film, but it garnered a fair amount of praise, getting a better reception than A ciegas, and with some justice as it is a better film. Although critical reception of Asfalto was not, then, unanimously positive, it still had good things to say about Calparsoro's achievements. Asfalto certainly is a better film in terms of a more polished technique, suggesting that Calparsoro was continuing to learn his craft. The critique of Asfalto comes at a time when there is still a sense of confidence in a youthful industry that has now consolidated itself. Calparsoro himself describes the film as his most sensual and romantic so far, although he implicitly contradicts Palacios in saying that the story is not an epic but rather is about how sensuality can be found anywhere—including, presumably, the back streets of Madrid.
This chapter discusses Calparsoro's film Guerreros. Guerreros makes a more overt move towards genre films more typical of Hollywood than European fare, the war film having been dominated by Hollywood. Guerreros tells us of a troop of Spanish soldiers acting as a peacekeeping force in Kosovo, who undertake a mission to repair an electricity generator in the exclusion zone. A confrontation with rebel forces embroils the young soldiers directly in the war, and for the rest of the film they simply try to survive in hostile territory. Calparsoro has not, however, left behind some of his earlier themes and styles: the sense of gritty realism remains with us in Guerreros, as does the theme of young people trying to come to terms with an alien environment, and of complex and tense relations with their peers and those apparently in authority around them. A central element of Guerreros is the corruption of innocence and idealism as young soldiers descend into a hell in which, in terms of violence, they become indistinguishable from the local inhabitants.