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Author: Rob Stone

This account of the life and films of the Spanish-Basque filmmaker Julio Medem is the first book in English on the internationally renowned writer-director of Vacas, La ardilla roja (Red Squirrel), Tierra, Los amantes del círculo polar (Lovers of the Arctic Circle), Lucía y el sexo (Sex and Lucía), La pelota vasca: la piel contra la piedra (Basque Ball) and Caótica Ana (Chaotic Ana). Initial chapters explore Medem's childhood, adolescence and education, and examine his earliest short films and critical writings against a background of a dramatically changing Spain. Later chapters provide accounts of the genesis, production and release of Medem's challenging and sensual films, which feed into analyses of their meanings, both political and personal, in which the author draws on traditions and innovations in Basque art, Spanish cinema and European philosophy to create a portrait of the director and his work.

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La ardilla roja (1993)
Rob Stone

4 Eyes that entangle: La ardilla roja (1993) Vacas may have made little money in Spain, but it was the international sales that convinced Sogetel of the profits to be gained by investing in Medem as auteur. The boom in private European television channels, satellite broadcasting, rental and sell-through video, the spread of consumer electronics through peripheral ancillary markets including Africa, Asia and the breakaway states from the Soviet Union made for a massive variety of market-places avid for commercial product. Thus, in addition to the lucrative Latin

in Julio Medem
Tierra (1996)
Rob Stone

Much [1995]), Vicente Aranda (Libertarias [1996]), Alejandro Amenábar (Abre los ojos [1997]) and Julio Medem, whose La ardilla roja had encountered critical success, at least beyond Spain, and thereby convinced Sogetel to double Medem’s budget for his next film Tierra to 380 million pesetas, which was partly raised by employing a French sound unit as part of a co-production agreement that gave access to funding from the European Union. Since the 1960s, the name and reputation of a film director had been a marketable commodity on the international arthouse and

in Julio Medem
Rob Stone

1 Author, auteur, Aitor Author ‘I think my best work is still to come. Truly’, says Julio Medem in what is an open-ended conclusion to his last interview for a book about him [5]. Nevertheless, he already enjoys a reputation in Basque, Spanish, European and even World cinema for the colourful eroticism, subjective camerawork, elaborate plotting, structural equations, straight-faced absurdity and obsessions with symmetry, duality and chance that characterise the films he has written and directed. Vacas (1992), La ardilla roja (Red Squirrel, 1993), Tierra (1996

in Julio Medem
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The making of Medem
Rob Stone

a clear ideology’ [5], and it is remarkable how fractious fathers complicate the plots of Vacas, La ardilla roja, Tierra and Los amantes del Círculo Polar. An increasingly introverted Medem also discovered a talent for running when, at the age of ten, he found himself well out in front of forty other children in a school race and, as he asserts, ‘by the time I was fourteen they were calling me SuperMedem’ [5]. He also discovered a talent for the high jump, the long jump, the pole vault, the 1000 metres and broke the Spanish hurdling record, which made him a

in Julio Medem
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Lucía y el sexo (2001)
Rob Stone

himself as Lorenzo, the creator of the characters on the island, which he now imagined in symbolic and psychological terms as a land mass floating freely above the past lives of characters that lay in the water beneath, a metaphor that had already informed the design of Sofía in La ardilla roja. The connection between this subconscious, underwater past and the conscious present above, he decided, was sex, A ray of sun: Lucía y el sexo 153 which was also what linked the characters: sex as a source of life and joy, but also of guilt and tragedy. ‘Somehow, in the

in Julio Medem
Abstract only
Rob Stone

journey away from the Basque Country that passes through the campsite of La ardilla roja, the vineyards of Tierra, Finland in Los amantes del Círculo Polar and the floating island of Lucía y el sexo, only to end up back where he started, in the Basque Country with La pelota vasca. Whether Medem’s Basqueness and, by extension, the Basqueness of his films, is inevitable and natural or deliberate and posed is illustrative of an auteurist trajectory founded upon the mix of truth, lies, history and myth in both the plots and themes of his fictions and his creation of their

in Julio Medem
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Los amantes del Círculo Polar (1998)
Rob Stone

aesthetic considerations as the juxtaposition of subjectivities and strangely angled shots that resonate with the grammar of Basque documentaries, the emphasis on natural spaces and the isolation of the individual within those spaces that is common to Basque art, and the emphasis on internal and external exile that is endemic to characters such as Manuel, Ignacio and Peru Irigibel in Vacas, J and Sofia in La ardilla roja, Ángel in Tierra, Otto and Ana in Los amantes del Círculo Polar, Lucía et al in Lucía y el sexo and the majority of speakers in La pelota vasca, who

in Julio Medem
Vacas (1992)
Rob Stone

emblem of a nation’s progressive sense of identity. Previously, producers had all baulked at the weirdness of the script that Medem had proffered on his search for financing in Madrid and suggested that he at least change the title. Medem had returned to the Basque Country and written a supposedly more commercial script called La ardilla roja, only to receive the call from Fernando de Garcillán ten days later. ‘He told me that he wanted some pretty cows for the coming year, for the Berlin Film Festival. It was a dream come true’, says Medem [5]. Contracts were signed

in Julio Medem
Film in the autonomous regions
Barry Jordan and Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas

enjoying a more appropriate Christmas release. Like Medem’s La ardilla roja (1993) and Felipe Vega’s El techo del mundo (1995), Vergès’s tale relied on the device of amnesia to bring together but also to compare and contrast the cultural identities of a hapless Japanese tourist and a kind-hearted Catalan air hostess. Apart from the rather obvious clichés of cultural differences (West/East, Catalan

in Contemporary Spanish cinema