Right from its initial camera’s prowl through a silent empty studio, which finally alights on and retreats before a balletic player-piano pouring out a Goldberg variation, this latest feature from the eccentrically experimental Catalan director Portabella is a beautiful, sometimes faintly bonkers celebration and contemplation of the role Bach’s music plays in the world today. Blending historical reconstruction (slightly à la Straub-Huillet) with very loosely linked ‘dramatic’ scenes and documentary sequences, the film constitutes a playful, painterly sequence of variations on the argument that Johann Sebastian changed the way the world hears thanks to his extraordinary ear for harmony. Happily, of course, there’s ample glorious music on the soundtrack to support that thesis.
Since the 1960s, Portabella always maintained a political commitment with all those movements against the Franco dictatorship that supported individual and collective democratic liberties.
In 1977, he was elected Senator in the first democratic elections and he participated in the writing of the present day Spanish Constitution. In 1999, was honoured with the Creu de Sant Jordi, the highest recognition that a person can receive from the institutions of the Generalitat de Catalunya. He has presided over the Fundación Alternativas since 2001.
As a filmmaker Pere Portabella has been a relevant presence in the Spanish film world for the last fifty years. With Films 59, his production company, he fostered some of the most emblematic films in the history of Spanish cinema. Los Golfos by Carlos Saura (1959), El Cochecito by Marco Ferreri (1960) and Viridiana by Luis Buñuel (1961). He directs his own creations combining a heritage of avant-garde culture with breakaway forms of… read more
I loved watching this film because at no point could I anticipate where it might go next. The scene with the string of cello players in the subway is pure joyous filmmaking at its finest.